[3.17] Wallach's Hierophant Freezing Pulse Totems (No Further Updates)

Hey folks,

Welcome to my Freezing Pulse Totem guide for the Hierophant! This guide is currently in progress of being updated for patch 3.17 (Siege of the Atlas / Archnemesis League).

Thoughts on patch 3.17

There are a number of major changes affecting this build in patch 3.17:

- Soul Mantle had the +1 to maximum totems affix removed completely
- First Snow threshold jewel was removed from the game completely
- Spell Totem Support was nerfed from 24% less damage to 40% less damage at gem level 20
- Freezing Pulse was massively buffed roughly ~65% in both base damage and damage effectiveness
- The new Eternal Blessing support gem replaces our old mainstay Essence Worm ring as our source of a free 50% reservation aura
- A number of core itemization buffs, mainly on jewelry and weapon slots (increased cast speed and spell damage affixes at high tiers)

Edit - The impact of all of the changes in tandem is likely worse than I originally estimated. It's not all bad news; Ice Spear's buff should make the skill better as a boss-killing swap-in, and itemization changes should return some of the lost damage via large bumps in cast speed on jewelry and weapon slot improvements. Impact of Eldritch implicits overall is not yet clear. Still, I am more hesitant to recommend than I was before, and will continue my plan start with FP totems to evaluate exactly where the build currently stands in 3.17.

I plan to league start Freezing Pulse myself this league just to help folks along and solve some of the remaining questions about the build that don't have answers just yet (like how we can utilize the new Eldritch implicits, or whether there may be a way to upgrade out of Soul Mantle entirely now that it is nerfed).

Note that the PoBs listed below are using customised configurations to simulate the effects of 3.17 as best I can while still being able to share them with everyone! When PoB is fully updated for 3.17, I will replace these PoBs with properly updated versions that do not use these custom configurations. I also will not be releasing a higher-end PoB until we have a better understanding of the new itemization available in 3.17.

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Skill Tree

Path of Building Import

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This is the main build setup that includes leveling trees during each act of the campaign (meant to be used with the Holy Flame Totem leveling section of this guide).



A good Rare helm is your initial target here. Treat this slot as a defensive piece; you'll want life, mana, and resistances mostly. This is also one of the more ideal places to pick up some early Dexterity.

For your helm enchant, pick up the Freezing Pulse +30% Projectile Speed if you can. Freezing Pulse drops off in damage and freeze chance the further it travels, so the faster you can make the projectile go, the more damage it will do at any given point in its travel path.

Eventually, you'll want to switch out this helmet with Viridi's Veil, a new item that drops from The Maven endgame encounter. This is one of the key items to allow you to scale your damage much higher than the starter Kikazaru setup, as it will grant you Hexproof while a Magic ring is equipped in your right ring slot. Since Hexproof reduces the effects of any curse applied to you to 0%, it opens up some new options like Coward's Legacy to permanently give you the "Low Life" status (allowing us to take the Pain Attunement keystone among other benefits). It's also one of The Maven's more common drops, so while it won't be available right away on a new league start, you'll start seeing them on the trade market fairly soon as people get to their first Maven kills. This will be your main helmet at endgame, so don't bother investing too much into your Rare helmet prior to acquiring one.


Body Armour

This build utilizes the Soul Mantle unique chest piece for two reasons: it comes with built-in level 20 Spell Totem Support granting us an extra gem socket, and because we are going to actually make use of the fact that this chest piece applies Curses to us every time a totem dies (which also counts if you summon new totems beyond your maximum, as the oldest totems are destroyed). When we combine this chest piece with the Kikazaru ring and the Asylum passive tree notable (and mastery), we have a full 100% reduced effect of curses on us, meaning we no longer suffer the effects of any Curses applied to us whatsoever (even though they will still apply and appear on our character visually). We'll then turn these Curses into damage buffs via the Self-Flagellation unique Jewel, which grants +20% increased damage for every Curse effect on you. This chest piece is mandatory for this build guide to function properly as written.



Gloves are one of our most flexible armor slots with a lot of interesting options you can consider.

For the baseline affixes, you're generally going to just be looking for things like Dexterity, Life, Mana, and / or good resist totals. On top of that, there are a lot of influence options that can get you some great damage bonuses:

Incursion armor has the Puhuarte suffix, which is a hybrid that grants both T1 cold resistance and up to 35-50% increased damage with hits against chilled enemies, which works with our Freezing Pulse totem strikes. Especially in 3.9, the availability of these type of gloves is pretty high, because Metamorphs fairly frequently have the "drops Incursion armor" reward, which is resulting in a lot of these gloves winding up in the trade pool (or something you can at least target for yourself in SSF).

Hunter influence can add the "chance to Unnerve enemies for 4 seconds on hit" prefix, which is a very powerful debuff that causes enemies to take 10% more spell damage; since this is a debuff, it is multiplied after your final damage is calculated, so assuming no other debuffs in play this is a 10% more damage multiplier essentially. Unfortunately there isn't much else in the Hunter pool that is good for this build and the minimum ilvl required is quite high, so it can be pretty hard to get an ideal set of gloves with this suffix alone. Alteration orb searching for this prefix into Regal -> multimod is probably the best way to isolate this one.

Warlord influence has the "Culling Strike" suffix at ilvl 73, which means any enemy that you hit that has less than 10% health dies instantly - including boss targets. A very good affix to have against fights like Sirus where you want to end the last phase as quickly as possible. The only fight that I know of where Culling Strike doesn't work is against Uber Elder (either boss in this encounter). Against anything else, it is up to a 10% damage increase since it functionally removes the last 10% of an enemy's potential health bar. There are some other decent affixes in this pool on gloves (such as increased spell damage in prefix, or chance to avoid stun in suffix) which make these a better crafting target than Hunter in my opinion. Like Hunter, Alteration orb spam -> multimod is worth considering in my opinion to isolate Culling Strike and craft some very strong gloves.

Shaper influence still remains one of the better glove options for the "socketed gems are supported by Faster Casting" hybrid prefix at ilvl 84, which always comes with a global increased cast speed bonus (and you can slot your self-cast curse here to gain the socketed gems effect, increasing its mana cost for Arcane Surge). You can also get the "socketed gems are supported by Slower Projectiles" prefix (ilvl 83) which comes with an increased projectile damage roll. Shaper influence items are noticeably more rare in 3.9 however, and you don't have the option to Hunter / Warlord Exalted Orb slam a good base that you want to craft into.

Expect this gear slot to be updated once all of the Eldritch implict options are known to us after 3.17 releases.



Rare boots are my preference here as well; like the helmet slot I treat this mainly as a defensive piece, so life, resists and mana are the focus on top of getting as much movement speed as possible.

For the boot enchant, the best option here is "Damage Penetrates 10% of enemy resistances if you have not killed recently". Since our totems do killing instead of us, we have this effect up permanently. The "120% increased Critical Strike Chance if you haven't crit recently" isn't terrible in a pinch, but we do self-cast Frost Bomb fairly frequently which - even though it will deal no damage due to Ancestral Bond - will still roll its critical strike chance and may disable this bonus sometimes, especially in boss fights.

As far as influence options, it is worth considering a Redeemer or Warlord Exalted Orb slam depending on what you have open on boots. Redeemer has a few good options such as "increased effect of non-damaging ailments" in suffix, which will greatly improve the effect of your chill & freeze (especially powerful if you are running the Cold Conduction medium cluster notable as it improves the effect of your Shock as well), as well as having some good defensive suffixes in case you don't hit that one. Warlord also has a set of less impactful but safe suffixes such as "chance to avoid stun" or "chance to avoid fire/cold/lightning damage", "regenerate 1% life per second", or "additional % physical damage reduction". Hunter could be considered if you are running something like Storm Brand to apply curses, which would allow you to use "you have Tailwind if you have dealt a critical strike recently" more easily, but everything else is a pretty big whiff in Hunter's pool.

Expect this gear slot to be updated once all of the Eldritch implict options are known to us after 3.17 releases.


Main Hand Weapon

A Rare Sceptre or Wand is generally what you're after here. You're looking for standard "caster" stats - +1 to cold spell skill gems, spell damage, cold damage, global critical strike multiplier, cast speed, cold (or other flat) damage to spells, non-chaos / cold damage as extra chaos, critical strike chance to spells or projectile speed (roughly in that order of priority).

Incursion Temple mods are strong here, in particular the Topotante's or Tacati's prefixes which grant 70-79% increased Spell or Cold damage and come with either flat cold to spells (Topotante's) or non-chaos as extra chaos (Tacati's) in a single prefix. These are great prefixes to build a strong wand around and ones you should be keeping a sharp eye out for (whether in the trade pool or in SSF).

Unfortunately, influence options aren't super exciting for this slot. I would say the most compelling options here are "Hatred has X increased aura effect" or "Spells have X chance to deal double damage" suffixes in the Redeemer pool, or "Chance to Unnerve enemies for 4 seconds on hit" in Hunter. The latter is going to be extremely hard to acquire as the rest of the Hunter influence pool is a total minefield for us, so even considering a Hunter's Exalted Orb on an open suffix would be an enormous gamble unlikely to pay off. I'd be more inclined to find a strong Incursion base with other good T1-T3 rolls that has an open suffix and slamming a Redeemer orb, as you have about a 1/3 chance of hitting one of the desirable suffixes. More realistically, I'd say ignoring influence altogether is probably the better option and just crafting on an Incursion base will be your best bet overall.

Expect this gear slot to be updated once all of the Eldritch implict options are known to us after 3.17 releases.


Off-Hand Weapon

My primary recommendation here is a second Rare wand or sceptre with similar stats to your main hand weapon. This generally means you have slightly less access to defensive affixes like life or mana, 1-handed weapons can still roll resists, and your per-totem DPS will be noticeably higher than your average Shaper shield. This is generally close to a wash in terms of total single target DPS since the shield route will give you an entire extra totem to work with, and sticking with 4 stronger totems tends to have a positive impact on your general map clear speed (as you will generally never be setting all your totems down in any one given spot while progressing forward through a map). It'll just generally leave you with slightly less effective health to work with, and possibly trickier resists to balance.

Once you're in a Viridi's Veil setup, you may want to consider looking for a Projectile Speed roll on one of your two weapons (Wands can roll this, but Sceptres cannot, so bear that in mind) to offset the lack of a Freezing Pulse projectile speed helmet enchant. You're pretty unlikely to be able to find a Viridi's Veil that has a decent Freezing Pulse enchant even in trade league.

A Rare Shaper shield is the other main option here for the "+1 to number of maximum summoned totems" affix. This only requires an item level of 70 or higher to appear on Shaper shields, but as of 3.9 with the Shaper and Elder no longer being part of the core Atlas mechanics, this is a bit harder to acquire than it used to be. If you can choose, I recommend crafting on something like a Fossilised Spirit Shield base for the highest possible Spell Damage implicit bonus. Since patch 3.8 this slot can also roll +1 to all cold spell skill gems like 1-handed weapons, so that would generally be one of the highest priority affixes after +1 to maximum totems. Otherwise, look for either defensive stats where you're currently lacking (life, mana, resists) or general offensive caster stats like cast speed, spell damage, or spell critical strike chance bonuses.

Expect this gear slot to be updated once all of the Eldritch implict options are known to us after 3.17 releases.



As mentioned in the Body Armour section, this build makes use of the Kikazaru ring to give us 60% reduced effect of Curses on us, with the final 40% coming from the passive skill tree. This ring is required to prevent the Curses that Soul Mantle will be applying to you from actually applying their negative effects. Thankfully, this ring is common and relatively cheap, so it shouldn't be hard to acquire even early into a league.

Since the curse changes in 3.12, map modifiers that apply certain curses with X% increased effect are more relevant than they used to be, as they will put you below 100% curse effect reduction for that particular curse. It is possible to use Imbued Catalyst on Kikazaru rings to further increase the magnitude of the "60% redcued effect of curses on you", however this is a somewhat expensive option for rings that you may wind up setting aside down the road if you upgrade to an Atziri's Reflection shield. In my experience, this generally isn't worth the cost as those curses will still have much less remaining effect on you, but it is worth mentioning as an option.

Your other ring should generally be a Rare ring with as much cast speed as you can find, and otherwise can serve as a defensive piece (life, mana, resistances).

Later on once you are wearing a Viridi's Veil, you'll swap out these Kikazaru rings for one Essence Worm (to run a damage aura like Hatred) and one Magic ring (to enable Viridi's "Hexproof" affix). The Magic ring MUST be in your right ring slot to get the Hexproof bonus; you'll see your Soul Mantle curses appear over your head as transparent "lock" symbols, which will confirm the helmet is working.

For the Magic ring, I recommend running either a Coral or Vermillion ring of item level 80 or higher. Since we give up our helmet slot for the Viridi's Veil, you'll likely want to get the Life rolls back. To that end I recommend scouring the ring, applying 4 Fertile Catalysts to improve the quality of Life and Mana rolls (for both the implicit and explicit mods), then spamming Alteration Orbs until you hit T1 Maximum Life. For the suffix, I'd generally just craft whatever resists you might still be lacking; if your resists are sorted, you are free to do whatever you prefer with that suffix.

It's worth considering running Magic rings in both ring slots once you are wearing Viridi's Veil, too; the left ring slot being Magic will make critical strikes against you deal no extra damage at all, as well as making enemy damage against you "Unlucky", which means the enemy rolls their damage range twice and they choose the worse result of the two. These are both pretty potent defensive effects, and a Magic ring will still enable you to make full use of Eldritch implicits to boot.

Expect this gear slot to be updated once all of the Eldritch implict options are known to us after 3.17 releases.



A good Rare is my general recommendation here, especially if you are running two unique rings as your resists will be harder to cap. Offensively the most important affix you can get in this slot is global critical strike multiplier as it rolls higher in this slot than any other jewelry slot we have. Life should also be on this slot; beyond that pick up whatever resists you need patched and then grab more offensive caster affixes (critical strike chance, cast speed, spell & cold damage). You should also look for these stats on Jade, Citrine or Turquoise amulet bases, as that will give you some additional Dexterity towards your skill gem requirements.

The Pandemonius is the main late-game option that provides a large amount of damage through the cold penetration against chilled enemies and bonus cold damage, and applies blind to enemies when they are chilled (though the effect of blind is pretty much useless to us after 3.16). It is also a Jade amulet base so you still get to pick up some Dexterity in this slot for your skill gem requirements.

Influence wise, I think your best bet is probably Redeemer to have a chance at the "+1 to all Cold spell skill gems" prefix, which even at the high end of gear is worth around the same as a 38-40% critical strike multiplier roll. Crafting one of these will be tricky; your best bet is probably Alteration orb spam looking for +1 cold spells and a T1 critical multiplier roll, then trying to Regal into another good T1 roll like life (or search trade for such a base you can multimod). While Hunter also has the "+1 to Intelligence skill gems" - meaning a dual-influence Redeemer / Hunter amulet with both prefixes is a possibility - you are dealing with incredible opportunity cost issues in trying to actually get both prefixes alongside something like T1 critical multiplier, which increases the cost of crafting such an item exponentially. Realistically, it's not really something worth considering unless currency is really no object to you, and you couldn't invest the currency in another slot for a more deterministic upgrade (which is pretty unlikely considering what such an amulet is likely to cost).

You should consider Pandemonius sort of the high-end benchmark; when you're considering the cost of an amulet upgrade, this is the baseline you're weighing against in terms of cost. It can be difficult to justify a rare amulet once you can afford a Pandemonius.

Expect this gear slot to be updated once all of the Eldritch implict options are known to us after 3.17 releases.



Another Rare slot, but there are a couple good options here: either a Rare Stygian Vise for the ability to socket a strong Abyss Jewel, or a Leather Belt which rolls an additional implicit maximum life bonus.

Treat this like a standard defensive belt slot - as much life as you can get, resists, and flask bonuses. Increased damage from Veiled crafting is another good option for this slot. Fossil crafting with Frigid Fossils will allow you to roll a potential additional 30% Cold Damage affix. As of patch 3.8, we can also roll mana on belts, which gives you some flexibility if you need help balancing your life-to-mana ratio for Mind Over Matter.

Once you are wearing the Viridi's Veil, your ideal endgame belt is going to be the Coward's Legacy unique belt. This item is acquired from the Temple of Atzoatl (Alva missions), by first dropping a Coward's Chains, then placing that belt in a T3 Sacrificial Altar (unique sacrifice room) along with a Vial of Consequence, which will create the Coward's Legacy. The main reason we want this belt is for the "You are considered on Low Life while cursed with Vulnerability"; since the belt also permanently afflicts you with Vulnerability while worn, you will always be considered at Low Life while wearing this belt. This in turn allows you to allocate the Pain Attunement keystone on the skill tree for 30% more spell damage, as well as making use of other bonuses like Panicked life flasks or the Rhyslatha pantheon upgrade for 60% more life flask healing while at Low Life.

DO NOT EQUIP COWARD'S LEGACY WHILE USING THE KIKAZARU SETUP! One of the other effects of Coward's Legacy is that curses applied to you have 50% increased effect; this will offset your Kikazaru's effects and cause you to still take 50% effect of all the Soul Mantle curses. This can easily get you killed! Viridi's Veil is needed for this item to properly function, as the Hexproof effect will always reduce the effect of curses to 0% no matter their magnitude.


Rain of Splinters is now our main source of additional projectiles in 3.17 as it comes at a much lower opportunity cost than running a support gem like Lesser Multiple Projectiles or Greater Multiple Projectiles. The damage penalty on this jewel is reduced damage and not less damage, which means it is essentially offset by a couple self-curses thanks to Self-Flagellation (see below). Trying to switch to Freezing Pulse totems without this jewel will require you to run at least Lesser Multiple Projectiles in your main links, which may make you feel too weak if you are on a 4-link since it would be replacing a damage bonus support. Try to acquire this jewel before considering swapping over to Freezing Pulse totems!

Self-Flagellation is the second unique jewel you'll want to have access to, which you can make use of once you have equipped your Soul Mantle body armour and Kikazaru rings. This jewel grants up to +20% increased damage for every Curse effect on you, which thanks to Soul Mantle you will have plenty of pretty much at all times. This is an enormous source of damage for this build, but don't worry about picking this up until you have your Soul Mantle setup equipped.

Clear Mind is the last jewel for this build and simply grants a nice chunk of mana regeneration and spell damage, so long as you are not reserving any of your mana pool. Since we are avoiding mana reservations to make use of our 40% Mind over Matter damage split, this jewel fits nicely into the build. This jewel should come as a last priority after the above three jewels are already in your build, and generally the first jewel to remove if you need to make room for a higher budget option such as Watcher's Eye.

Cluster Jewels

Large Cluster Jewels

Personally I no longer recommend running Large cluster jewels for this build. They are simply too expensive to buy or roll with Harvest, and we don't get quite enough benefit from them to justify the price tag anymore. Back when Cold Conduction was giving us free Shock status with all of our Chill effects, it was much more impactful to be able to run two Medium cluster jewels. Nowadays, I recommend simply using a single Medium cluster jewel (see section below).

Medium Cluster Jewels

We have a few good options in medium clusters. Like large clusters, we want to use as few skill points as possible here, but in this case we can utilize either 4 or 5 point medium clusters (since you can still get 2 notables + 1 jewel socket for 4 skill points on a 5 point medium cluster by pathing to the jewel socket via whichever side does not have the extra minor node).

As far as which medium clusters to use, after the nerf to Cold Conduction, I'd rank them in the following order:

Increased Totem Damage - The Sleepless Sentries notable in this medium will grant you 100% uptime of Onslaught, which will allow you to replace your Silver flask with any other flask of your choosing (such as if you upgrade to Bottled Faith). I'd recommend pairing this notable with Ancestral Echo for the 10% cast speed, or Ancestral Inspiration if you prefer to automate your Arcane Surge buff (though this is much harder to roll with Sleepless Sentries and will come at some overall DPS loss due to being a rank 1 Arcane Surge). Ancestral Reach is also a good quality-of-life notable that allows you to place your totems further away.

Increased Projectile Damage - One of these clusters with the notables Streamlined and Repeater will give you a solid damage boost while also picking up an additional 30% projectile speed. A great cluster for those purely focused on mapping efficiency, and one of the most trivial Medium clusters to roll yourself, making it easy to acquire.

Increased Critical Strike Chance - A very high raw damage cluster if you can get one with any combination of Precise Commander, Precise Retaliation or Pressure Points. I'd probably rather use a Projectile cluster since they are much easier to acquire, but if you happen to find one of these they aren't a bad option.

Small Cluster Jewels

Unlike the Large or Medium cluster jewels, I generally prefer 3 point jewels over 2 point jewels if we're investing points into a cluster jewel chain, but either can be utilized to your preferences.

Increased Maximum Life - In general, I think we will always want a jewel with increased life minor nodes. Holistic Health, Fettle and Blessed are all great choices for notables here; I personally prefer Blessed as Chaos Resistance is still highly valuable in the current state of the game.

These small cluster jewels are also a good place to stack up extra effects in the minor nodes. In particular, you can get up to +12-14 Dexterity per minor node on max level cluster jewels, which can make your gear & gem requirements much easier to meet. Otherwise, look for bonuses to resistances (especially Chaos Resistance) or flat life or mana on the minor nodes.

Gem Links

Main Gem Setups

Primary damage links in order of priority:

Freezing Pulse -> Hypothermia -> Increased Critical Strikes -> Added Cold Damage -> Multiple Totems -> Cold Penetration

Note that if you are not yet using a Soul Mantle you'll need to equip a Spell Totem gem to convert Freezing Pulse into a Totem; the support gems above are listed in order of priority so drop gems as needed to fit your current available links.

If you're having single target issues earlier in the league with your initial pinnacle boss attempts, you can make a few gem swaps with the same color sockets to utilize Ice Spear's much higher single target potential:

Ice Spear -> Greater Multiple Projectiles -> Increased Critical Damage -> Added Cold Damage -> Multiple Totems -> Cold Penetration

Creeping Frost can also be used in place of Ice Spear for single target bossing; it doesn't have quite as much punch on paper as Ice Spear, however it's a bit easier to use in practice since for optimal damage you just need to drop your totems directly on top of your target as close as you can. This will allow all of the Creeping Frost projectiles to hit directly at the totem's feet in as small of a spread as possible and overlap all of the projectiles' explosions on the totem's target. Give it a shot yourself if you are having issues with Ice Spear against bosses that like to move around (or are just tired of not being able to see anything when Ice Spear hits a target debuffed with Sniper's Mark).

Creeping Frost -> Greater Multiple Projectiles -> Increased Critical Strikes -> Added Cold Damage -> Multiple Totems -> Cold Penetration

Offensive support 4-link:

Frostbite -> Arcane Surge -> Increased Duration -> Spell Cascade

This should be your priority for your first spare 4-link. Remember to level your Arcane Surge gem such that the mana cost of Frostbite is equal or higher than the trigger for Arcane Surge to grant its buff effect. You want Frostbite to grant Arcane Surge every single time it is cast; maximum uptime is worth more than slightly increasing Arcane Surge's buff effect. Spell Cascade allows you to both increase Frostbite's cost (to give you more room for a higher level Arcane Surge) and allows you to blanket a much larger area without increasing Frostbite's cast time.

Remember that your rank of Arcane Surge should be adjusted to account for the mana cost of your Frostbite curse! I personally keep Arcane Surge low enough that a single Frostbite cast will trigger it, but keeping it within two casts of Frostbite is also reasonable.

Offensive support 4-link:

Frost Bomb -> Spell Cascade -> Sigil of Power -> Second Wind

Once you're on a 6-link Soul Mantle (and Multiple Totems is in your primary damage links), your Frost Bomb setup should look something like the above and be manually cast for difficult to kill targets. Frost Bomb provides both Cold Exposure (-25% Cold Resistance debuff) and -75% life regeneration to enemies affected by the cold pulses of Frost Bomb before it explodes, so this is a valuable damage increase against bosses. The additional links simply increase your ability to spread the coverage and length of debuffs per usage; if you are looking for room for different gems not listed in this guide, this is probably the first link I'd pull from to find room for those.

Sigil of Power is a new addition to this link, which is here since it can also make use of the Second Wind support gem for an extra cooldown charge. This skill drops a large sigil on the ground, and the idea is to spend mana while standing anywhere in that sigil's radius to fuel the sigil up to higher stages. Each stage grants more additional lightning damage up to 4 stages, and at 4 stages you also cause enemies that are on the sigil to deal significantly less damage to boot. Since many of our spells (including our totems themselves) can dump a fair bit of mana per second, it is pretty easy to ramp up a sigil to max as fast as possible (up to 1 stage per second). Since you have two charges thanks to Second Wind, you don't need to get too caught up in trying to stay in the sigil during boss fights, just try to remeber to drop a new one whenever you are in a "damage phase" of a boss fight or just before a boss fight begins and enjoy some free damage.

Utility support 4-link:

Steelskin -> Cast When Damage Taken -> Increased Duration -> (Your Choice)

I've actually started running Steelskin over Immortal call as of late; even though we do generate Endurance Charges in this build, we have a low base amount of physical mitigation, and do not rebuild our Endurance Charges that consistently after Immortal Call consumes them, which can leave us a bit vulnerable to physical damage once Immortal Call wears off if we are not fully out of danger. Steelskin doesn't consume our Endurance Charges when it triggers, so we get to keep the additional physical mitigation at all times. The downside of Steelskin is that it requires a much higher rank of skill gem to really be useful later, so you'll want to level up Steelskin and Cast When Damage Taken to relatively high levels. I personally run a level 17 Cast When Damage Taken and a level 19 Steelskin, which allows Steelskin to absorb up to around 2k damage during its buff effect. Remember that if you want to increase Steelskin to rank 20, your Cast When Damage Taken must be leveled all the way to 20 as well for it to work.

The final link here is yours to decide; I generally slot a Vaal skill here like Vaal Haste or Vaal Grace. Just make sure whatever you slot here is high enough rank that it is not triggered automatically by Cast When Damage Taken unless you want it to be. You can also simply break this 4-link into two 2-links on this gear slot, so that your Vaal skill is only linked to Increased Duration; it isn't important for your Steelskin to be linked to Increased Duration as well, and this will prevent your Cast When Damage Taken from triggering anything but Steelskin if the gem levels are misaligned.

Damage support 3-link:

Cold Snap -> Cast When Damage Taken -> Bonechill

I run this 3-link setup in my weapon so that when enemies strike me, it will drop a Cold Snap chilling area under them that increases the cold damage they take thanks to Bonechill support. Enemies that die while in the chilling area will also generate Frenzy charges for us occasionally, which is a nice bonus during map clearing. Keep Cast When Damage Taken at level 1 in this setup (which will allow you up to a level 7 Cold Snap) since we don't care how much damage Cold Snap itself does, so we want this to trigger as often as possible.

Note that using Vaal Cold Snap will also grant you a Vaal version that you can self-cast, which grants you Frenzy charges every second enemies are standing in the chilling ground. Useful for some additional Frenzy charge generation against certain bosses, but requires souls to charge, which isn't possible in some encounters (such as Sirus).

Movement support 3-link:

Flame Dash OR Dash -> Second Wind -> Sniper's Mark

Your main movement skill link. Personally I go back and forth between these two skills, but this will come down to personal preference. Early game, you may have a easier time using Flame Dash since you are likely to have fairly low access to Dexterity bonuses for higher levels of Dash. The Portal gem is just a luxury, and can be replaced with whatever you prefer if you don't mind picking up Portal Scrolls (Phase Run, Lightning Golem, Lighting Warp, etc).

This is also a good place to fit your Sniper's Mark curse in for bosses. You can also choose to slot it into your Frostbite 4-link setup in place of Spell Cascade, which will allow it to benefit from Increased Duration at the cost of losing Spell Cascade for Frostbite (which will lower Frostbite's mana cost for Arcane Surge purposes). If you choose to do that, you can use the third gem socket here for whatever you prefer!

Awakened Gem Priority

Primary damage links:

Awakened Added Cold Damage and Awakened Cold Penetration are the two Awakened gem variants we can currently utilize in this build.

Awakened Added Cold Damage is generally worth prioritizing first, as it gains a significant boost when leveled to max (level 5), which takes a significant amount of experience. The earlier you can get started leveling this gem, the better. Awakened Cold Penetration doesn't gain nearly as much value at max level.


Pursuit of Faith -> Ritual of Awakening -> Conviction of Power -> Divine Guidance

Even after the 3.13 Hierophant changes, I don't think the order of Ascendancy nodes changes compared to prior patches. Pursuit of Faith and Ritual of Awakening are still vital nodes for being able to move into your full totem playstyle as quickly as possible, and Conviction of Power will provide a solid offensive and defensive bump as you start your mapping progression. The Power charges in particular will make it much easier to start scaling your critical strike bonuses earlier, which is why I generally recommend taking it before Divine Guidance.


Terrified Divine Life Flask of Sealing - Your first flask slot should always be a life flask to help heal back from any big hits you might take. The ideal suffix here is Sealing so that you have the ability to remove dangerous bleed effects (such as the heavy bleeds put on you by Labyrinth spike traps) on demand. I personally recommend a Terrified Divine Life Flask of Staunching, which will reduce the overall amount healed but cause the flask to heal instantly if you are considered on Low Life (which is now 50% of your maximum life). Once you are wearing a Coward's Legacy, you'll be considered at Low Life at all times, meaning this flask will just always heal you instantly for a much larger value than the regular instant life flask.

Wise Oak Bismuth Flask - This unique flask will grant us up to 8% Cold Penetration so long as our Cold Resistance is the highest of our three elemental resists. It will also grant some additional damage mitigation against whatever elemental damage type we have the lowest resist of. While quite difficult to do, if you can get all three of your Fire, Cold, and Lightning resists to the exact same number, you will get both of the flask's effect in all three elements (since all three resists will technically be both your lowest and highest elemental resists). Worth doing as a very endgame point of min-maxing, but for the most part you should be concerned only with ensuring your Cold Resistance is highest so that you get the Cold Penetration effect from this flask.

Chemist's Diamond Flask of the Heron - Not the damage powerhouse it once was, this is still a valuable damage flask for increasing our critical strike chance. You can opt for the Shock immunity suffix, however that version results in a significant flask duration penalty. I personally find just the reduction in Shock effect to generally be good enough. Chemist's prefix here gives us 2 uses from full charges with 10 charges left over, meaning you will get a 3rd use almost immediately.

Chemist's Silver Flask of the Sunfish - Another good damage flask that grants Onslaught, which gives us 20% cast and movement speed. I personally like Ignite protection here since we don't need Curse removal on flasks with our build setup, and Ignite can be dangerous in some situations so its nice to have some avoidance. You could also consider Poison protection on this slot instead as it can potentially be dangerous with low Chaos resistance (especially against some bosses like Al-Hezmin). Chemist's affix will grant us 2 uses from full charges. If you have a medium cluster jewel with the Sleepless Sentries node already granting you Onslaught, you should replace this flask with something like a Quartz for Phasing while mapping.

Chemist's Quicksilver Flask of the Bear - This isn't the fastest build around, so a Quicksilver flask is great for improving your mapping speed and general quality of life. The Bear suffix grants us reduced effect of Chill and duration of Freeze on us; I prefer running this flask since once you upgrade your Brine King pantheon, it will impart full immunity to Freeze as well as 50% reduced effect of Chill. Combined with this affix, you will have over 100% reduced effect of Chill and immunity to Freeze, without suffering a penalty to the flask duration.

Last edited by Wallach on May 13, 2022, 12:46:13 AM
Last bumped on Aug 12, 2023, 4:47:07 PM
Alternate Quality Gems

Here are my recommendations for the alternate quality gems made available from Heist, broken down by their respective link setups. Note that most of these are pretty minor upgrades and none of them are necessary at all.

Freezing Pulse: Default
Hypothermia: Any
Increased Critical Strikes: Default or Anomalous
Added Cold Damage: Awakened or Anomalous
Cold Penetration: Awakened
Increased Critical Strikes/Damage: Default

Ice Spear: Default or Phantasmal
Creeping Frost: Divergent

Frost Bomb: Divergent
Spell Totem: Default
Multiple Totem: Default
Second Wind: Default

Cold Snap: Anomalous
Bonechill: Divergent
Cast When Damage Taken: Anomalous

Frostbite: Default
Spell Cascade: Default
Increased Duration: Default
Arcane Surge: Anomalous or Divergent

Flame Dash: Default or Anomalous
Second Wind: Default or Anomalous
Sniper's Mark: Default

Cast When Damage Taken: Anomalous
Steelskin: Anomalous

Vaal Righteous Fire: Divergent
Increased Duration: Default

Hatred: Anomalous
Zealotry: Anomalous or Divergent

Amulet Anointment

True Strike - In 3.16, Flash Freeze was nerfed to no longer have projectile speed, which makes it much less useful as an early budget anointment for this build. True Strike seems like the most likely replacement for your early anointment, as it is still fairly cheap (Teal, Crimson, Black) and provides a competitive damage boost with more expensive options like Heart of Ice. This anoint should be enough to hold you over until you can afford Whispers of Doom.

Whispers of Doom - With the changes to curses and the new Sniper's Mark, it's become much more desirable to acquire this +1 to maximum curses so that we can apply Sniper's Mark and Frostbite to the same target. Until you have an amulet good enough to justify the cost of this anointment, you can refresh your Arcane Surge buff with Frostbite and then immediately re-apply Sniper's Mark as it is going to be a more powerful curse even at lower ranks of Sniper's Mark (and will get you used to applying both of these curses to the boss when you do upgrade to Whispers of Doom).


(Major) Soul of the Brine King - We don't get any stun immunity in this build, so Brine King helps prevent us from getting totally stunlocked in bad situations. The reduced Chill effect is also good for fights like Uber Elder where your Freeze flask can run out leaving you more vulnerable to Chill. In 3.16, this gets even better as it will now outright grant Cannot be Frozen when upgraded.

(Minor) Soul of Ryslatha - Honestly the Minor doesn't make too much of a difference in this build. With patch 3.11, Shakari no longer offers poison immunity once upgraded, but does still offer some protection by reducing poison duration by 50% and preventing you from suffering more than 5 stacks of poison. Ryslatha will improve your ability to heal via your life flask, which is especially potent if you are in the high budget setup since you will always be considered at low life from the Coward's Legacy belt. I would only really avoid using Yugul or Tukohama, as reflected damage is not relevant to this build, and you will almost never be stationary to gain the benefits from Tukohama.


Help Alira (5 Mana Regenerated per second, +20% to Global Critical Strike Multiplier, +15% to all Elemental Resistances)

Especially as a league starter, helping Alira is simply too beneficial to this build to take over 2 passive skill points. The resists and mana regeneration are super useful at the start of the game and remain good bonuses all the way through Uber Elder, while critical strike multiplier is weak early but the strongest offensive stat available to us at endgame. At the high end of things you can only get slightly more damage out of 2 passive skill points, especially with the addition of cluster jewels, but Alira is strong enough that I often keep her bonuses forever.

Leveling Guide

Note: These notes are now updated for 3.17. If you see any typos, errors, or something is confusing, feel free to ask in the thread so I can update them accordingly!

Act 1

After killing Hillock and entering Lioneye's Watch, take Purifying Flame as your first gem reward. This will be our basic damage spell for a while, until we access Wave of Conviction in Act 2. You'll also unlock Freezing Pulse at this point, and while we won't be using it to level, it's not a bad idea to buy at least one and level it in a wand in your weapon swap alternate weapon set. Alternatively, you can just come back to Nessa in Act 1 and purchase it later, as she will sell higher level versions depending on what level you are (up to gem level 15).

You will also encounter your first Labyrinth trial in this act, within the Lower Prison. I'd recommend completing Labyrinth trials as you progress through the story rather than going back for them, as they are all very easy, and later trials will contain useful crafting recipes.

Other important gems you want to pick up from quests in this act are:

Mercy Mission (Killing Hailrake): Arcane Surge Support

Breaking Some Eggs (Opening Submerged Passage): Holy Flame Totem, Flame Wall, Frostblink, Steelskin, Dash

The Caged Brute (Upon Entering Prison): Added Fire Damage Support, Combustion Support

The Caged Brute (After Killing Brutus): Flame Dash, Clarity

Frostblink, Flame Dash and Clarity don't need to be linked to anything, so just fit them in wherever you can in your gear. Your damage spells however will want as many gem links as you can find for them (you will find up to 3-link items in this Act):

Purifying Flame ideal links: Arcane Surge Support, Added Fire Damage Support

Holy Flame Totem ideal links: Combustion Support, Added Fire Damage Support

Flame Wall ideal links: Spell Cascade Support

Flame Wall is a nice addition for early leveling; prior to taking Ancestral Bond it will deal some damage itself to any enemies standing in it, however its main benefit is that it provides a damage bonus to projectiles that are shot through the flames before striking their target. Holy Flame Totem's projectiles benefit from this, so try to drop your Flame Wall generally in front of your Holy Flame Totem to further boost its damage.

Early on, you can craft a wand that has flat damage to spells by vendoring any magic (blue) wand, a single Alteration Orb, and any elemental resistance ring (e.g. Ruby Ring, Sapphire Ring, or Topaz Ring). The rarity of the ring will determine the tier of damage to spells that is crafted onto the resulting wand, though it will increase the level requirement of the wand as well (levels 8, 14 and 20 depending on ring rarity), so make sure to check what wand the vendor is returning to you and make sure you can actually equip it. You can also craft any type of resistance ring if you can't find one by vendoring a white Iron Ring alongside any color of skill gem to create a matching color resistance ring (e.g. Iron Ring + Green Gem will create a Topaz Ring). These weapons can be a big boost to your damage while leveling, so keep an eye out for these components!

In terms of the passive tree, your primary goal is to head towards the Devotion life notable so we can get that juicy +50 flat life mastery, picking up all of the notables shown in the passive skill tree such as Light of Divinity and Retribution along the way.

If this character isn't your league starter and you have some currency to splash on leveling gear, here are some uniques that can give you an early game boost:

Tabula Rasa body armour for immediate access to a 6-link
Goldrim helm for a large chunk of elemental resists to get you through the early game
Wanderlust boots for early game movement speed and chill / freeze immunity
Lifesprig wands or Axiom Perpetuum sceptres for damage

Skill point quests in Act 1 that should be completed:

The Marooned Mariner
The Dweller of the Deep
The Way Forward

Act 2

Two more Labyrinth trials are found in Act 2 - one in the Chamber of Sins Level 2, and one in the Crypt Level 1.

Important gems you want to pick up from quests in this act are:

Intruders in Black (After Killing Fidelitas): Herald of Ash, Wave of Conviction

Sharp and Cruel (After Killing The Weaver): Controlled Destruction Support, Elemental Focus Support

Once you get access to Wave of Conviction, drop Purifying Flame and slot Wave of Conviction instead. Herald of Ash does not need to be linked to anything, so just fit it in anywhere you can (though ensure it isn't connected to a spare support gem that might increase its mana reservation). You'll also want to shuffle your ideal links a bit with the new supports available:

Wave of Conviction ideal links: Combustion Support, Arcane Surge Support, Added Fire Damage Support OR Controlled Destruction Support

Holy Flame Totem ideal links: Elemental Focus Support, Added Fire Damage Support, Controlled Destruction Support

Flame Wall ideal links: Spell Cascade Support

Despite the nerfs to Controlled Destruction for critical strike builds, we can't really invest much into our critical strike until near the very end of the campaign, so it's still a fairly good damage gem while leveling. Use whichever link is more convenient for the sockets you have available.

You usually won't have acccess to 4-links in Act 2, so level your remaining supports in other gear pieces until you can add them to the desired links. Prioritize giving Wave of Conviction your first 4-link if you get lucky enough to find one late in the act.

I highly recommend helping Alira during this act instead of killing all bandits for 2 passive skill points, especially if you are using this build as a league starter. The resists and mana regeneration are very powerful when your gear is at its worst, and the critical strike multiplier is very strong so the Alira choice remains competitive with 2 skill points even at endgame, even just in the context of raw damage.

In terms of the passive tree progrsession, I'd suggest grabbing Divine Fury first, then head up to Purity of Flesh for some additional life. You may also want to invest in the +15% Elemental Resistances in Elemental Mastery if you're still needing more resists.

Skill point quests in Act 2 that should be completed:

None (unless choosing to kill all bandits instead of helping Alira)

Act 3

Here in Act 3 you'll start finding more 4-link items, including gear pieces from the vendor Hargan in town. Each time you return to town (so long as you gained at least 1 level since the last time you checked the vendor), vendor inventories will refresh, so get in the habit of checking for 4-link armor pieces in town until you have 4-links for Wave of Conviction and Holy Flame Totem.

Three Labyrinth trials are located in Act 3, and you'll want to complete them all so that you can access the Labyrinth for the first time near the end of the Act. The first trial is found in the Crematorium, the second within the Catacombs Level 1 (near the Marketplace waypoint), and the third in the northern corner of the Imperial Gardens. Make sure to check for crafting recipes within each of these trials so you don't have to come back for them.

Once all 6 trials are complete, you can enter the Aspirant's Plaza from within the town of Sarn. The first Labyrinth is level 33, so you may want to wait until you're near that level before you tackle it (generally I either do it right after killing either Piety or Dominus). For your first two Hierophant Ascendancy points you'll want to take Pursuit of Faith so you can pick up Ritual of Awakening after the Cruel Labyrinth. This node will greatly increase your totem placement speed and give you +1 to maximum totems, so you can place down an extra Holy Flame Totem for tough targets.

Important gems you may want to pick up from quests in this act are:

Lost in Love (After Returning Tolman's Bracelet): Flammability,
A Fixture of Fate (Helping Siosa in the Library): Second Wind Support, Hypothermia Support, Cold Penetration Support, Increased Duration Support

Flammability can be slotted without support links, as you really will only cast this on bosses and tough rares for the time being. The Library is an optional area, but it is the earliest opportunity to access the Second Wind support, while also give you access to a massive selection of other gems you can purchase in case you forget a gem and don't remember where it is purchased. If you don't mind waiting on Second Wind, you can skip this quest as you'll get a similar gem vendor further ahead in the Act 6 town. You won't need the Hypothermia or Cold Penetration gems until you switch to Freezing Pulse, but doing the Library quest allows you to buy leveled versions of these gems (including Second Wind) from Clarissa, making it easier to come back and buy them when you're ready to do so later. You can also buy them now and level them in your weapon swap set if you prefer.

Wave of Conviction ideal links: Combustion Support, Arcane Surge Support, Added Fire Damage Support OR Controlled Destruction Support

Holy Flame Totem ideal links: Elemental Focus Support, Added Fire Damage Support, Controlled Destruction Support

Flame Wall ideal links: Spell Cascade Support, Increased Duration Support

Flame Wall doesn't really need a fourth link from this point on; you will eventually discard this link when you switch to Freezing Pulse totems, and for now your main priorities are Wave of Conviction and Holy Flame Totem.

For your passive tree, after completing the Purity of Flesh wheel your main goal is to grab Explosive Impact so that we can access the Fire Mastery in that cluster for an additional 40% Physical converted to Fire. This will ensure our Wave of Conviction always applies Fire Exposure, and makes more of our damage synergize with our debuffs to enemy fire resistance. After that, head towards Dark Arts just next to this cluster for more damage.

Skill point quests in Act 3 that should be completed:

Victario's Secrets
Piety's Pets

Act 4

No Labyrinth trials are located in Act 4, and only a few more important gems remain to unlock from the story quests:

Breaking the Seal (Defeating Voll in the Dried Lake): Sigil of Power

The Eternal Nightmare (Opening Entrance to Belly of the Beast): Multiple Totems Support, Cast When Damage Taken Support

Once you blast open the Belly of the Beast, you'll have access to Multiple Totems which marks the point where you should consider taking Ancestral Bond and fully embrace the totem way of life. To do this, you'll need to shuffle your gem links around once more:

Wave of Conviction ideal links: Spell Totem Support, Multiple Totems Support, Combustion Support

Holy Flame Totem ideal links: Elemental Focus Support, Added Fire Damage Support, Controlled Destruction Support

Flammability ideal links: Arcane Surge Support, Increased Duration Support Spell Cascade Support

Cast When Damage Taken link: Steelskin

Flame Dash & Sigil of Power link: Second Wind Support

The new Eternal Blessing gem is not needed while leveling as it won't work with Herald of Ash (which is stronger for us than the Anger aura, and would prevent us from also running Clarity), but will be an important gem to remember to come back for when you do eventually swap to Freezing Pulse totems. This gem essentially replaces the Essence Worm ring we previously used to equip to gain access to a free 50% reservation aura while keeping all our mana open for Mind Over Matter.

Sigil of Power is a new addition that will remain in the build even after you switch to Freezing Pulse totems, so feel free to grab it whenever you have the room for it in your gem links. This is a cooldown skill that places a large sigil on the ground, and as you spend mana while standing on this sigil, it grows in power and grants you more and more lightning damage each time it grows. It also causes enemies standing on the sigil to deal less damage if you have it fully powered (4 stages). Useful to drop when fighting bosses, especially if you can drop it a few seconds before the boss "activates", which can give you time to ramp up the sigil and start the fight with a bunch of extra damage. This spell can be supported by Second Wind for an additional cooldown charge, so linking it in a 3-link with Flame Dash isn't a bad idea.

You'll note that a couple of the gems listed above (Spell Cascade and Increased Duration) weren't mentioned before as they are not needed until you make this swap into Wave of Conviction totems. Since you'll be moving your Arcane Surge support to Flammability however, you'll want these supports as you can fit them to increase Flammability's mana cost and grant longer Arcane Surge duration. They've all already been unlocked by quests done up to this point, however; Spell Cascade is purchased in Act 1 from Nessa, and Act 3 from Clarissa. Don't stress too much if you can't fit Increased Duration or Spell Cascade onto your Flammability yet due to not having spare links; focus mainly on your Wave of Conviction and Holy Flame Totem links, and add gems to Flammability as you can fit them in. At this point you should have access to all of the gems you'll need for the rest of the game.

The reason we make this adjustment now is the Multiple Totems Support gem - this gem not only allows you to drop 2 totems at once, but also grants the linked skill (and ONLY the linked skill) +2 to maximum number of totems. What this means is that even after you've dropped up to 3 Holy Flame Totems down (+1 from your Pursuit of Faith Ascendancy node, and +1 from Ancestral Bond), you can still drop 2 more Wave of Conviction totems on top of that for a total of 5 totems. Just remember that only your Wave of Conviction totems can break your totem limit like this; if you drop 2 pairs of Wave of Conviction totems, your Holy Flame Totems will start being destroyed to make room. In practice, this just means that you should drop your Holy Flame Totems first, then drop a single pair of Wave of Conviction totems on the boss (as most targets weaker than that won't need them). So long as you refresh your Holy Flame Totems first, you'll always have room to drop 2 more Wave of Conviction totems. You can play around with it in your hideout to see what I mean if this description is confusing to you, but it will become second nature very quickly.

One other thing to keep in mind that Cast When Damage Taken has a limit in terms of what level of linked gems it can trigger based on its rank; for example at rank 1, Cast When Damage Taken can only trigger gems with a level requirement of 38 or lower. Steelskin is a low level gem at rank 1, which means its level requirement increases faster per rank than Cast When Damage Taken does. A good target for now will be to raise your Cast When Damage Taken to rank 6 (capable of triggering gems up to level requirement 48), and your Steelskin up to rank 13 (which has a level requirement of 48). Just remember that when Steelskin wants to level up, its level requirement will also go up, and you'll want to double check that your Cast When Damage Taken is high enough level to continue to support it. I generally don't level either gem beyond rank 6 / rank 13 until I am done with the campaign and into maps, so that it doesn't take too much incoming damage to trigger Cast When Damage Taken (as your life pool will generally not be that great in your weak leveling gear). One thing you can do is just leave Steelskin on your hotbar, and if you ever see that you are able to cast Steelskin manually, you know that you've leveled Steelskin up too far for your Cast When Damage Taken support to trigger automatically.

In the passive tree your main targets are getting the aforementioned Ancestral Bond keystone to give us +1 to our maximum number of totems, Elemental Overload for a solid damage boost while leveling, and Divine Judgement[/b] for even more damage. After that start heading towards the Quick Recovery life notable.

Skill point quests in Act 4 that should be completed:

An Indomitable Spirit

Act 5

Now that we have all of our main gem links sorted (the rest of the campaign can easily be completed on 4-link setups), you can just focus on quests, gear upgrades, and your skill tree progression. No Labyrinth trials are found in Act 5.

For reference, these are the gem links you are shooting for when evaluating gear pieces. From here on out, our gem links aren't going to change for the remainder of the acts, so this is the last time our ideal links will be listed in this guide:

Wave of Conviction ideal links: Spell Totem Support, Multiple Totems Support, Combustion Support

Holy Flame Totem ideal links: Elemental Focus Support, Added Fire Damage Support, Controlled Destruction Support

Flammability ideal links: Arcane Surge Support, Increased Duration Support Spell Cascade Support

Cast When Damage Taken link: Steelskin

Flame Dash & Sigil of Power link: Second Wind Support

Your next passive tree steps here will be picking up Quick Recovery, then heading over towards Cruel Preparation as we look to boost up our life and mana reserves.

Skill point quests in Act 5 that should be completed:

In Service to Science
Kitava's Torments

Act 6

Once you kill Kitava at the end of Act 5, you are inflicted with a permanent 30% penalty to all of your resistances. This means your first priority in Act 6 is to do what you can to offset this penalty and get yourself back to 75% elemental resistances. If you've been picking up crafting recipes along the way during story quests, you can try to craft additional resistances onto any rare gear pieces you have to help get your elemental resistances back to 75%. If you have to choose, I'd prioritize Fire and Cold resistance first as you'll encounter those damage types in Tukohama's areas (as well as Abberath), while Lightning resistance is more necessary a bit later in the act when you face Shavronne in her tower.

Act 6 is also an opportunity to pick up any gems you didn't or couldn't fit in your gear prior to this; Lilly Roth will sell all available gems to you after you complete her initial quest to clear the Twilight Strand of undead. As your gem links expand you can always come back to her to purchase gems you skipped earlier in the game. If you skipped the Library quest in Act 3, this is also the first time you will be able to purchase Added Cold Damage Support and Increased Critical Strikes Support, which are gems you'll use in your Freezing Pulse links after you switch. If you have the sockets for it, consider grabbing these two and tossing them into your weapon swap set to start leveling them in preparation. If you have a friend playing a Shadow, Witch, Ranger or Scion, you can instead ask them to buy the leveled versions of these gems from the Act 1-3 vendors for you when the time comes.

In terms of your passive skill tree, first pick up Prodigal Perfection, then down towards Arcane Will. Mainly we're focused on continuing to ramp up our mana reserves in preparation of taking Mind Over Matter in the next Act.

Skill point quests in Act 6 that should be completed:

The Father of War
The Puppet Mistress
The Cloven One

Act 7

The Labyrinth trials within Act 7 are located in the Crypt Level 1 and the Chamber of Sins Level 2, both of which also contain crafting recipes. Assuming you'vec completed all the trials up to now, you'll have the opportunity to hit the Cruel version of the Labyrinth for 2 more Ascendancy points. Once you complete it, you'll want to take Ritual of Awakening for another significant boost in totem strength, as well as additional life and mana regen. From this point on the rest of the story should feel pretty easy.

As far as the passive tree is concerned, first pick up Arcanist's Dominion and Heart and Soul. From here, go back and pick up the Arcane Capacitor line - this should give you enough mana bonuses that you should be comfortable grabbing Mind Over Matter. You should wind up picking up Mind Over Matter right about level 53 (assuming you've done all the skill point quests up to this point), after which you should feel pretty safe to take on the Cruel Labyrinth.

NOTE: By this point you'll be high enough level to equip a Soul Mantle and a Kikazaru ring if you have access to them. If you are in trade league and already have access to these unique items and want to make the switch into Freezing Pulse totems, see the "Switching to Freezing Pulse Totems" section of the guide, just below the "Leveling Tips" section you're reading right now.

Otherwise, you can continue to just use the Holy Flame Totem setup until you're ready to make the switch. You can easily take this setup all the way into maps as it plenty strong on its own, so there is no pressure to do so until you're ready. This leveling tips section will assume you are continuing on with the Holy Flame Totem setup in terms of passive tree guidance.

Skill point quests in Act 7 that should be completed:

The Master of a Million Faces
Kishara's Star
Queen of Despair

Act 8

Worth pointing out that you can start finding 5-link items at vendors around this level, so you should continue to glance at the vendor when you are in town to see if they happen to be selling a 5-link Armor / Energy Shield chest piece. A pure Energy Shield chest piece can also work, though might be a little harder to get proper socket colors. This is fairly rare and unnecessary, but is definitely a nice boost if you happen to get lucky.

The Labyrinth trial in Act 8 is located within the Bath House (generally in the NW or NE corner); make sure you complete it and grab the crafting recipe within the trial before moving on.

Passive tree progression here will be Fire Walker and then going back for Primal Manifestation and our first totem mastery (I'd recommend totems taunt for 1 second when summoned). You can also grab one of the mana masteries at this point for 100% reservation efficiency of Clarity if you want a bit more mana for your newly acquired Mind Over Matter.

Skill point quests in Act 8 that should be completed:

Reflection of Terror
Love is Dead
The Gemling Legion

Act 9

Make sure to hit the Labyrinth trial in Act 9, which is located in The Tunnel (between the Foothills and the Quarry). As with most Labyrinth trials, there is a crafting recipe to snag within the trial near the exit.

There aren't a lot of skill points acquired during this act usually, so just head towards Nimbleness as we look to start reaching over to the Shadow starting area.

Skill point quests in Act 9 that should be completed:

Queen of the Sands
The Ruler of Highgate

Act 10

Your last goals in the passive tree as you close out this act should just be to grab Trickery and Blood Siphon before you start investing into your spell critical chance bonuses. Alternatively, you could go back and pick up the 2 point jewel sockets we've skipped up to now if you know you are about to make the swap into Freezing Pulse totems, as you'll need at least 2 sockets Rain of Splinters and Self-Flagellation jewels.

You'll also find the final Merciless Labyrinth trial in Act 10 within the Bone Pits. I'd recommend trying to complete this before you fight Kitava and finish the campaign; you will get 2 skill points from killing Kitava, but you will also be inflicted with another permanent 30% resistance penalty on top of the one you received in Act 5. It'll likely be easier to defeat Merciless Izaro without that resistance penalty than it will with 2 more skill points, as there are a fair amount of possible elemental damage sources when facing Izaro depending on which version of Labyrinth is active that day. Once you do complete Merciless Labyrinth and receive 2 more Ascendancy points, they should go into Conviction of Power for easy generation of both Power and Endurance charges, as well as a bit more damage and mitigation for generating them.

Once Kitava is dead, grab your 2 skill points from Lani, head northwest in Oriath to grab the crafting recipe you always forget at league start, then talk to Kirac and follow his quest to unlock your map device and head into the endgame!

Skill point quests in Act 10 that should be completed:

Vilenta's Vengeance
An End to Hunger

Switching to Freezing Pulse Totems

So you've managed to get your hands on a Soul Mantle and a Kikazaru ring, and you have at least one First Snow jewel you picked up from Act 5. While it's tempting to just equip everything immediately, there's a few things you should make sure you have covered:

Check your resistances! Moving into more unique items like Soul Mantle and Kikazaru means less opportunity for resistances on rare pieces. Kikazaru will offer you a chunk of Lightning Resistance, but Soul Mantle has none. This may mean you need to try and craft some Fire and Cold Resistance onto other rare slots, use some Essences on new pieces to try and get ones with different resistances, etc.

Adjust your passive skill tree! You'll want to respec out of at least Divine Fury and Fire Walker (which can be switched over to Frost Walker). The removed points should be used to pick up the jewel sockets for your First Snow and Self-Flagellation jewels. You'll also need to free up 4 more points to pick up Asylum and its mastery to ensure that you reach 100% reduced effect of curses on you. If you skipped the respec point quests, you may want to go back and do a few of them rather than spend Orbs of Regret.

Check your attributes! The Freezing Pulse totem setup requires significantly more Dexterity due to using a number of green gems. You may need to try and fit an extra Dexterity affix onto one or two of your gear pieces, or consider using an extra skill point to allocate the Agility notable (just above Mind Over Matter) for an additional +30 Dexterity. Using a Jade, Citrine, Turqoise or Onyx amulet base makes this easier as they have implicit Dexterity bonuses (Jade being the highest, Onyx lowest).

Dump Herald of Ash! You can't make any use of Herald of Ash with Freezing Pulse, so there's no reason to waste mana reserving it anymore. You may also want to dump Clarity depending on how much mana you have in your new gear setup, though this isn't totally necessary unless you've found a Clear Mind jewel and need to have zero mana reservations.

Adjust your other gem links! Aside from the main Freezing Pulse link in your Soul Mantle replacing Holy Flame Totem, you'll want to dump your entire Wave of Conviction setup for the Frost Bomb setup in the Gem Links section, and your Flammability curse needs to be exchanged for a Frostbite curse. If you don't have all the support gems you need for your Freezing Pulse setup prepared, you can go back to previous acts and purchase them - buying them from the Act 1-3 vendors will allow you to buy gems much closer to your character level than the level 1 gems you can buy in Act 6 (or in the Library from Siosa). Unfortunately Templar does not unlock Added Cold Damage or Increased Critical Strikes naturally, so unless you can get a friend playing a Shadow / Witch / Ranger / Scion to buy leveled versions for you, you'll have to take the level 1 versions instead:

Act 1: Freezing Pulse
Act 3: Hypothermia, Cold Penetration
Act 6 (or Act 3 Library): Added Cold Damage, Increased Critical Strikes

If you're having a hard time meeting any of the above requirements, consider holding off on making the switch for a bit longer while you work on solving those issues. The Holy Flame Totem setup will be plenty strong enough to carry you through the story and into maps until you are fully prepared.

High Budget Gearing Options

Note: I'm still cleaning up this section after 3.13 and the Viridi's Veil build changes. Atziri's Reflection shield is no longer recommended for my part, as it accomplishes much the same effect as Viridi's Veil, but with a much higher price tag.

Once you've accumulated fat stacks of currency with this build, you can turn around and invest back into your character to really kick things up to the next level.

After making the swap to Viridi's Veil and are utilizing Hatred in an Essence Worm, this opens up the opportunity to utilize the Watcher's Eye unique jewel:

If you can only afford a single-affix Watcher's Eye to start, you'll probably want to look for the "+X% increased critical strike chance while affected by Hatred" affix. Since 3.13, we ultimately wind up dropping Increased Critical Strikes, so that can be made up here. If you can afford a 2-mod Watcher's Eye, generally the "adds X to Y Cold Damage while affected by Hatred" affix will be your next best option, though "damage penetrates X% Cold Resistance while affected by Hatred" is typically very close in effectiveness (though tends to be more expensive at no real benefit to us). If you decide to run Zealotry as your damage aura in the Essence Worm, I'd recommend the "increased cast speed while affected by Zealotry" as the priority affix, with "enemies take X% more damage while standing on Consecrated Ground while affected by Zealotry" being one of the better second-mod options. As always, you can import your character into Path of Building and create various Watcher's Eyes combinations to see what is most effective for your character relative to the cost of the options on the trade market when you go to purchase one.

Also, one of the more expensive but larger DPS upgrades you will be able to manage at this point in gearing is a corrupted 6L Soul Mantle that has the +2 to Socketed Projectile Gems prefix. With 3.13 we're more likely to want to run Multiple Totems as our final link, and without a level 4 Empower support, the +1 to Socketed Gems corrupted implicit is not as powerful. If you feel that you are comfortable not running Multiple Totems Support, Empower rank 4 is still a good option paired with a +1 to Socketed Gems corruption, but this is a pretty costly committment, and one that I feel isn't generally quite worth the extra price it commands.

If you're having issues with meeting Dexterity requirements for your high budget options, you can also consider adding the Brutal Restraint timeless jewel (replacing your Clear Mind):

This jewel when socketed in the northern-most jewel socket (just to the left of Prodigal Perfection) will grant large amounts of Dexterity by adding +2-4 Dexterity to every minor node in radius. In addition, random bonuses will be added to every allocated notable within its' radius, which can add up to be even more damage than the Clear Mind it is replacing, or grant you defensive bonuses like maximum life or movement speed. These bonuses allocated to notables are random however, which means you may need to spend a significant amount of Divine Orbs to reroll the random notable bonuses until you find one good enough to replace your Clear Mind. Note that you do not care what "name" is associated with the jewel; any Brutal Restraint will serve our purposes because we are not using the jewel to transform a keystone.

Last edited by Wallach on Feb 3, 2022, 12:19:38 PM
Gear Upgrade Progression & Recommendations

This is a work-in-progress section, but should help to decide what pieces of gear you should be upgrading at different levels of progression. These are only rough guidelines, and things can change from character to character depending on your luck and available budget.

Story Acts 1-10

This portion of leveling is pretty easily done with Holy Flame Totem, so don't feel too pressured to jump into a Freezing Pulse setup with Soul Mantle during this part of progression.

Mainly, you should just be concerned with the following (in general order of importance):

- Resists on any and all slots until you are at 75% Fire, Cold and Lightning Resist (including the resistance penalties applied to you after fighting Kitava in Act 5 and Act 10)

- Increases to maximum life and mana on armor and jewellery slots (as much as you can find while reaching your resistance goals above)

- Spell damage, flat damage to spells, and cast speed on weapon slots (remember the wand recipes very early on for easy to craft weapons in Act 1-3)

- Movement speed on boots (as much as you can find while still meeting your resistance goals)

This is pretty much all you need to focus on throughout the story. You should also try to upgrade your flasks as you progress; bleed removal becomes more relevant in Act 4, and towards the latter part of the story you'll probably want to start trading out things like mana flasks for more utility flasks like a Diamond Flask or Silver Flask. Otherwise, just putting a priority on resistances, life and mana on pieces with as many links as you can acquire should carry you through. Weapon upgrades aren't super important here as you'll get the bulk of your damage from your gems and passive tree, but it doesn't hurt to keep an eye out for possible upgrades to improve your damage further.

Early Mapping

Whether or not you have already moved into a Freezing Pulse setup by this point, your first priority needs to be to cap your elemental resistances back to 75% after the second resistance penalty you acquire from defeating Kitava in Act 10. This will be made slightly easier by taking Conviction of Power in the Hierophant ascendancy, since you will then have 4 permanent minimum Endurance charges providing you another 16% to all elemental resistances after you complete the Merciless Labyrinth.

If you haven't switched yet, this is the time you should be focused on getting the necessary pieces to swap over to Freezing Pulse totems. Check the "Switching to Freezing Pulse Totems" section for details on what you need to do to ensure you can do so comfortably.

If you have already switched, then your priorities in the early mapping phase are mostly along these lines:

- Look for improvements to your rare slots; more life and mana while keeping your elemental resistances capped on your armor slots, wands with higher spell damage & cast speed, etc. Belts tend to be one of the easiest places to find resistances and life at the lowest relative cost.

- Upgrade your Soul Mantle to a 5-link if you have not already; manually 5-linking a body armor isn't generally too expensive, but you can also consider looking for a Jeweller's Touch prophecy if you don't want to roll the dice.

- Continue trying to clean up your flask slots; you should generally be completly off mana flasks by this point, and use Beastcrafting to force suffixes onto your flasks for things like Freeze & Chill removal and Bleed removal.

- Double-check your links; by this point, it shouldn't be too difficult to have all of your slots (aside from body armor) fully linked and set up.

Midgame Mapping

At this point you should be getting into yellow tier maps and starting to scrape together more consistent currency while progressing your Atlas. Aside from the main basic goals of upgrades (more resists, more life/mana, etc) it's around this point I'm starting to think about more specific upgrades:

- Start searching for more specific wand and armor slot pieces; particularly I'm often on the lookout for Topotante-affix wands and Puhuarte-affix gloves as mentioned in the Gear section. These can be pretty big upgrades at fairly reasonable prices in trade league, as more players are doing content that drops Incursion-specific items. I also generally keep an eye out for higher movespeed boots that have solid resistances and life/mana on them if I'm still wearing boots with 20% or less movespeed.

- Amulet upgrade; around this point I'll often try to keep an eye out for a stronger rare amulet that has a good life roll and some resists with at least one decent damage affix (cast speed or critical multiplier typically). Mainly I'm looking for an amulet that will last until I can afford a Pandemonius, which is decent enough to consider spending the oils to anoint with the Flash Freeze notbale (Crimson, Verdant, Azure oils).

- Start acquiring any mid-range uniques still missing; usually this is tertiary pieces like the Wise Oak flask or Clear Mind jewel that you haven't been able to afford up until now (assuming a league start perspective).

- Start leveling additional Freezing Pulse gems; if you haven't already, grab a pair of 3 blue socket weapons and put them into your alternate weapon swap set and fill them with 6 additional Freezing Pulse gems (purchase from Nessa in Act 1 so that they will be partially leveled already). You're going to want to try and craft your own 21/20 Freezing Pulse down the road, which means you will need to level these gems to level 20 twice over. They'll gain experience even though they're not in your primary weapon slots, and once they eventually all reach level 20, you can vendor each of them with 1 Gemcutter's Prism (so 6 total for all 6 Freezing Pulse gems) to revert them back to level 1 but with 20% quality. This saves you a lot of cost in Gemcutter's Prisms at league start.

- Start looking towards acquiring a Viridi's Veil; at league start, you're likely not going to see these start appearing on the trade market for at least a few days. However, it is an extremely powerful upgrade to be able to swap into an Essence Worm and Coward's Legacy, and because this helm is one of Maven's more common drops, the cost may actually be more accesssible compared to even getting a 6L Soul Mantle. If you do come into one of these early, you'll probably have an easier time finding a higher item level base Coral Ring than Vermillion Ring (which is an endgame Atlas base) for crafting your Magic ring slot.

- Start looking towards getting a 6L Soul Mantle; this should be something you should be thinking about as you get through the midgame. I personally tend to just manually socket and link my own Soul Mantle when it comes to league start, but you may prefer just trying to pool currency together to buy one from trade. The Fated Connections prophecy is also an option to force the 6L, however at league start this prophecy can be expensive due to the demand, and you may wind up paying less for a 6L directly from someone than you will buying this prophecy.

Endgame Mapping

Once you start getting into red tier maps, you're generally looking to finish up any missing pieces for the general Kikazaru variant of this build, and starting to look towards saving currency for a later transition into Atziri's Reflection (or just a completely different build if you are only using this build for league start purposes). These are the kind of goals I'm generally looking to fulfill before I consider saving up specifically for that transition:

- Get your Uber Lab done if you haven't yet for Divine Guidance; pretty self-explanatory, Divine Guidance is a nice chunk of mana and defense while also providing some damage thanks to Transfiguration of Mind. You'll probably feel it defensively if you put this off for too long.

- Get your Viridi's Veil, Essence Worm and Coward's Legacy setup going; if the cost is comparable, I'd probably choose to invest in these three pieces rather than upgrade to a 6L, as the damage boost will be very noticeable at this point in progression. Working out your resists may be difficult if you try to make this jump too early, however, so consider trying to invest into more solid gloves and boots in terms of resists beforehand. You essentially want to be able to swap into this trio of items all at the same time - if you can't afford the Coward's Legacy, consider holding off or investing into your 6L Soul Mantle first instead.

- Get your 6L Soul Mantle and Multiple Totems support; also pretty self-explanatory, Multiple Totems won't really improve your single target damage, but it should make your mapping and general quality of life easier. Remember once you have Multiple Totems in your Freezing Pulse links, you'll want to swap your Frost Bomb over to be self-cast again (see gem links section).

- Improve at least one of your wand slots to a strong, endgame-worthy tier wand; Topotante's affix wand is generally your best bet here. +1 to All Cold Spell Skill Gems wands can be expensive, so don't fixate too much on that affix; a good combination of cast speed, critical strike multiplier, critical strike chance to spells and maybe projectile speed can make for a very strong wand. Especially keep an eye out for wands that have decent cast speed as well as an open suffix, as global critical strike multiplier (which is a recipe earned in the Temple of Atzoatl) is very cheap to craft relative to something like cast speed. I'll generally try to upgrade both my wands here to Topotante's wands, even if one of them isn't quite as strong, as the cost tends to be pretty acceptable for mid-range wands.

- Upgrade all of your rare armor pieces; your gloves and boots should be a priority to aid you getting into your Viridi's Veil setup, using the guidelines in the main gear section. If you can't use Viridi's Veil still, you can check to see if there are any cheap Rare helmets on trade that may have a Freezing Pulse helmet enchant on them (particularly the Projectile Speed enchant). Puhuarte gloves should be your focus in that slot at this point, and again open suffixes can be very good here for crafting any missing resists needed. Boot upgrades can be especially useful at this point as if you acquire a strong set of boots, it can be worth the time investment at this point to try and get them enchanted for a solid damage boost. In some cases I'll invest fairly deep into a good set of boots around this point specifically for this reason, as they're something you'll be using for the rest of the game.

- Consider upgrading to a Pandemonius amulet; with the addition of Viridi's Veil, this will likely be one of the last and most expensive single upgrades you'll make before really juicy endgame pieces, and I'd generally want to solve the above points first. That said, it is very powerful both offensively and defensively, as the Blind effect tends to be strong in mapping and league content. It's also a good upgrade if you haven't yet anointed your amulet due to not finding a decent enough upgrade to justify that yet. When buying this from trade, remember to check the prices on The Halcyon amulet and a Blessing of Tul; sometimes it is cheaper to buy them separately and just use the Blessing of Tul on The Halcyon and craft The Pandemonius yourself. Rmember to use any Turbulent Catalysts you've acquired to this point on your Pandemonius, as it will increase both the cold damage and damage penetration and chilled enemies.

- Start looking towards your 21/20 Freezing Pulse; make sure by this point you are leveling additional Freezing Pulse gems in your weapon swap so that you can attempt to corrupt your own 21/20 Freezing Pulse. It's roughly an ~8% damage increase and should not be ignored.

Crafting Tips

To be added!


Thanks for reading! Feel free to stop by my Twitch stream when I'm online if you have any questions about either build, or just want to chat:

Last edited by Wallach on Feb 10, 2022, 6:30:43 AM
Cool stuff :-)

Been replaying this in standard to farm Shaper (no Celestial Hideout yet :'(), the feel and damage are both awesome.
Iam waiting for your 3.9 Update. It will definitely my league starter build.

Do you will stream on 13?
Last edited by Jaccob on Dec 5, 2019, 10:29:51 AM
Could i also use a Atziris Reflection instead of the rare shield?

And really fun build!
I m planning this to be my SSF build,
However with lack of 2 jewels and soul mantle (2 rings aswell) im going to do :
- play with brands, including ascendancy then switch it to FP totems when i got build enabler items. (passive tree is quite similar)
- try it with FP totems from the scratch and see how it going.

whats optimal in your opinion?
Wallach wrote:

Thanks for reading! If you want to check out my other Hierophant totem build for Holy Flame Totem, you can find that build thread here:

Thx for your totem builds, going to start league with one of them.
If you play both maybe you can advice which one is more strong and preferred as league starter? Thx!
short question, do i cast frostbite by my self or will it be triggered anyhow?
Jaccob wrote:
Iam waiting for your 3.9 Update. It will definitely my league starter build.

Do you will stream on 13?

Yeah, I'll definitely be streaming on league start.

Shepherd_ArK wrote:
Could i also use a Atziris Reflection instead of the rare shield?

And really fun build!

Definitely, check the high-budget options section of the guide for into on the Reflection setup.

Dyvz wrote:
I m planning this to be my SSF build,
However with lack of 2 jewels and soul mantle (2 rings aswell) im going to do :
- play with brands, including ascendancy then switch it to FP totems when i got build enabler items. (passive tree is quite similar)
- try it with FP totems from the scratch and see how it going.

whats optimal in your opinion?

For SSF I can't see it being optimal to start directly into Freezing Pulse totems. If you want a totem start for SSF I suspect something like Holy Flame Totem is more suited for that, until you get a pair of Kikazaru rings and a Soul Mantle at least.

Old_Hroft wrote:
Thx for your totem builds, going to start league with one of them.
If you play both maybe you can advice which one is more strong and preferred as league starter? Thx!

I prefer Freezing Pulse totems to Holy Flame totems, though as mentioned above if I were league starting in SSF I'd probably use Holy Flame Totems to start instead.

Jaccob wrote:
short question, do i cast frostbite by my self or will it be triggered anyhow?

It's just self-cast in this build.

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