Cold ANIMATE WEAPON Summoner | League-Start & Leveling Guide

3.22: after using Guardian briefly in 3.21, we're back to Necromancer. I may return and update this guide more fully in the future, but for now, realize that the last significant update here was written for 3.19.

The core of this Animate Weapon build will still be very strong but you may have to use some common sense and your own research to fill in the blanks for what has changed in the most recent patches.

Patch Changes to Animate Weapon: Background

A quick history recap.

Patch 3.10 was the first overhaul of the Animate Weapon skill in many years, which moved it from terrible / meme-tier to "very solid, if you can tolerate the playstyle and some QOL issues." I played Animate Weapon every. single. league. for quite some time.

In Patch 3.19, Animate Weapon took several big nerfs: lower minion HP, higher mana cost, and worse damage (frenzy and power charges on minions became quite bad). There were still viable versions of the skill, but not really for doing it at low budget with elemental conversion. I basically stopped playing.

In 3.21 there were BIG BUFFS.

From the patch notes:

  • Animated Weapons no longer randomly pause when moving or attacking. As a result of this change we've adjusted the attack speed and damage provided by the Animate Weapon Gem, this should be a net neutral change in terms of damage dealt but result in more consistent damage and clearing.
  • Animate Weapon got a small attack speed and damage nerf of about 10% less benefit from gem levels, but this is no big deal - it's already very easy to stack DPS. The biggest issue for the gem was clunky playstyle, and that just got better.
  • new Vaal Skill Gem for Animate Weapon! Wow.

To complete this history lesson, if you're curious about the last time they buffed Animate Weapon in 3.10... take a look.

Questions? Please ask them in the comments so other people can see the answers too. I won't respond to private or in-game messages.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Videos
  • 2. Summary and Pros/Cons
  • 3. Detailed Animate Weapon Mechanics
  • 4. Custom Loot Filter
  • 5. Passive Tree
  • 6. Leveling Guide
  • 7. Gem Links
  • 8. Gear & Jewels
  • 9. Advanced Mechanics & Gear Setups
  • 10. Conclusion

1. Videos

3.17: Sadly my little laptop can't handle video recordings. Core gameplay has not changed, so look at one of the prior videos!

3.10: Build Guide Video. Big picture overview of build, gem setup, passive tree. (Parts have become outdated, refer to the written guide when in doubt.)

3.11: Video Update. Includes patch changes, comparing physical and cold versions of the skill, tips for a smooth playstyle plus gameplay of Red Maps, Shaper Guardians, Shaper, Delve.

More Gameplay Showcase Videos

3.12: Agnostic Mana-based Defenses update for a late game version of build in Heist league.

- Tier 16 Maps and Baran. Well-geared, zoom-zoom!
- Red Map Delirium encounters (pre-nerf) tiers 12-14.
- Yellow Maps and Conquerors with some rippy Delirium mods.
- Early Maps with Cheap Gear before full cold conversion, using a 5-link.
- Leveling Tips: Vendor Recipes and Passive Tree. Some of the passive tree advice is now out of date.

- Why is Animate Weapon worth playing?
- GGG Teaser & Thoughts on Scaling Animate Weapon

2. Short Summary

TLDR: Use Triad Grip gloves to convert all minion damage to Cold. Animate Weapon kills everything.

For newer players there is a highly detailed description of all build mechanics, without any jargon, in the very next section!

Pros and Cons:
+ Safe playstyle with minions that chill, freeze, taunt and blind enemies.
+ Fantastic boss killer.
+ Low budget to get started, but scales easily into end game.
+ Can get high HP and either armor or block for late-game defenses.
- Cannot tank big hits.
- Dexterity is needed on gear to meet gem requirements.
- More active playstyle than other summoners.

This build is designed to smash through the campaign, normal bosses, all the way up to red maps. While it can do all content in the game, the final min-max to optimize defenses, do aspirational content, Maven, the Feared, and so on - is left as an exercise for you. The guide is designed for low- to mid-budget players (5ex or less total).

*** FAQs ***

"Should I league start with Animate Weapon?"

A summoner playstyle doesn't depend heavily on gear, making it very easy to start a new league with. Further, you get access to the Animate Weapon gem right at the start of Act 1 so leveling is simple.

"I'm new to Path of Exile. Can I try this build?"

Sure! This guide is comprehensive and intended to be accessible for players with all levels of experience. Check out the Intro and Mechanics sections first, and then leave a comment if you still have questions.

"Solo self found (SSF) and budget friendly?"

Mostly. There is only one "highly recommended" unique, Triad Grip Mesh Gloves. This drops frequently in maps. Even without finding them right away, the build should still be functional without those gloves for a long time. Aside from that one unique, you can reasonably craft or find every needed item yourself.

"Hardcore Viable?"

Probably. The skill tree is 90% the same as one for Summon Raging Spirit, and many people have taken that to high levels in HC before. This guide is for a SC perspective but with small adjustments, more defensive options are available. (i.e. more Marauder life nodes, Soul of Steel, and Bone Offering for block rather than Flesh Offering for speed)

"I want to avoid a lot of clicking. Is this hard to play, mechanically?"

While leveling, Ethereal Knives or Bladefall generate "ammunition" for Animate Weapon. It's a one-two skill usage, a bit like Essence Drain/Contagion, but weapons have a long duration so it's not required all the time. Flasks are only used defensively, so no "piano flasking" to keep up DPS. Once you are actively running through a level, you can just raise weapons as you go.

Later on some of this can be automated away through gearing, but while leveling there are quite a few skills to use. If you want a summoner build with a less active playstyle, this build may not be for you.

"What about some other Ascendancy?"

I wrote a section on why Necromancer is the best for this build, so at minimum read that before asking. Guardian is also viable (slightly lower damage, more minion speed).

"Cast While Channeling / Spellslinger / other clever gearing setups to trigger Animate Weapon?"

I fully researched various automation methods, and the conclusion I reached was Not Worth It. Huge loss of DPS for very small added convenience, and gem slots are in short supply as it is. Link an Unleash Support to Animate Weapon to get up and running more quickly. For a fully automated build, look into Chains of Command with a Scion instead.

"Does your build work with Chains of Command?"

Chains of Command has a very different playstyle, which some prefer - you can convert the core of this build over to CoC pretty easily. See my video on this subject for details.

"Why Cold, instead of Physical with Impale?"

Physical is less demanding for gem slots and has a slightly more flexible passive tree, but the damage with cold is higher. I started off the guide with the idea of showing various different damage types but it was getting too wordy, and the gearing for varied setups is different enough to make it awkward to cover all of them.

I've played both versions and in my opinion, Cold conversion is the strongest way to start off with Animate Weapon. Physical benefits more from a high budget and top-tier cluster jewels.

"Which spectres does the build use?"

Stygian Silverback (frenzy charges) and Host Chieftain (power charges) both of which can be found in Riverways of Act 6. Spectres go into a +2 minion gem helm so they stay alive better. When a third spectre is available, use the Arena Master which spawns from Drox's portals (more offense) or They of Tul which spawns from a breach (more defense).

"Why does my damage feel low in the late game?"

After reviewing many people's builds, a DPS problem is always one of two things. (1) Not using recommended gem setup with Triad Grip; (2) Not using good Abyssal Jewels or Cluster jewels. Double-check those areas if you're having problems.

If you have other questions, please do leave a comment!

Patch Comments

Us after 3.10 minion and Necromancer "nerfs"

High Level Analysis of Animate Weapon buffs in 3.10! (not my video)

3. Detailed Introduction to Animate Weapon

If you have little experience playing summoner builds or are new to Path of Exile, this section will get you up to speed.

Animate Weapon: the Basics

The Animate Weapon skill turns an identified melee weapon on the ground into a flying minion which chases down and slays your enemies. And you can summon a lot of them!

If you've played other summoning skills in Path of Exile, think of Animate Weapon as the cross between Raise Zombie and Raging Spirit. Like a Zombie, the Weapon must be raised from something on the ground - a dropped weapon, rather than a corpse. And, like a Raging Spirit, the Animated Weapon flies and has fixed duration before expiring. (Unlike Raging Spirits, Animated Weapons will be targeted by enemies so their health pool does matter).

Weapons you can animate are either dropped by enemies, or left in the ground as Lingering Blades by Ethereal Knives or Bladefall. Either animate the items that monsters leave behind, or if those aren't available, cast some knives and animate those instead!

How Animate Weapon Calculates Damage

When you cast Animate Weapon it inherits the damage, crit chance, attack speed etc. of the identified item on the ground which you targeted. This includes any magic, rare, or unique modifiers (though be aware, you won’t get that weapon back!) Then the skill adds its own modifiers to base damage, attack speed, and so on to the minion which flies around and hits things until it dies or the duration expires.

When a weapon is summoned from a Lingering Blade the process is slightly different. Blades have base stats roughly equal to a Glass Shank. Then, Animate Weapon adds an additional damage bonus based on its own skill level to the created minion if it is from a lingering blade. This boost is substantial!

What it means to you: the level of Bladefall you use, or any supports attached to that skill, don’t matter for your DPS. All that counts is the level of your Animate Weapon.

Minion Mechanics for New Players

For those completely new to this type of build, here are the mechanics that matter.

An Animate Weapon skill gem has the tags Duration, Minion, Spell, Physical attached to it so let's unpack those first.

Each animated weapon lasts for either 40 seconds duration or until it has zero hitpoints. We increase that duration with the passive tree so that we don't need to recast as often.

Minions count as Allies (but are not Party Members, which is only other players - this distinction occasionally matters). In order to improve our minions' damage with gear or the passive tree, the modifier must explicitly say "minions have..." or "allies get..." otherwise it has no effect!

For example, although an Animated Weapon attacks with physical damage, a passive node saying "15% increased physical damage" will not benefit it, because that is only for the player and not Minions.

Casting Animate Weapon is a Spell, and is improved by Cast Speed. However, as the Animated Weapon is a Minion, increases to spell damage do not help its damage. If you add Spell bonuses or supports, it will support the spell which animates the weapon, but won't affect the weapon's damage when it attacks enemies.

The reason these tags matter is that a support gem usually has to match a tag on the skill it supports. In addition to Duration, Minion, Physical and Spell, Animate Weapon can also be supported with Melee Attack tags.

The damage our minions deal with attacks can be Physical, Elemental (Cold, Fire, Lightning), or Chaos. The type of damage matters because monsters can resist attacks by having resistance to Cold/Fire/Lightning/Chaos, or armor against Physical. Bosses especially have significant amounts of armor and resistances.

Animate Weapon deals physical damage by default (so increased physical damage benefits us) but eventually, we want to convert all that damage to cold with the Triad Grip gloves.

*** Why Convert Damage to Cold? ***

There are three benefits to converting all damage to one element.

First, by picking just one element, we can focus our build toward breaking through that one elemental resistance on bosses. It's easier to find gear and skills which reduce, or penetrate, one sort of resistance rather than all of them.

Second, physical damage gets reduced by armor. Armor blocks a flat amount of physical damage from each hit (rather than a percentage as resistances do), making it most effective against small hits. Animated Weapons attack with a lot of fast hits so bosses with high armor won't take as much damage. Fully converting to elemental will ignore monster armor, and we have lots of ways to break through resistances.

Lastly, cold damage benefits from some of the most powerful damage multipliers in the game. Very rarely, buffs can "double dip", or increase both physical and elemental damage at the same time, so final damage benefits from both increases. The Hatred Aura is one example, because it gives added cold damage based on physical damage, and also more cold damage, double-dipping from any increase to physical.

Also, Skitterbots linked with Bonechill will cause enemies in its chilling aura to take more cold damage, a buff which other elements do not have available.

4. Loot Filter

To enjoy playing Animate Weapon, a custom loot filter is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED!
Custom Loot Filter for Animate Weapon

Normal rarity weapons we might want to animate will be hidden by default for most loot filters. I'd recommend a custom filter because the pace of play is much better when you animate weapons off the ground instead of trying to generate all weapons yourself with Bladefall.

To make your own custom filter which includes weapons to animate, follow these steps.

1. Go to

2. On the first page, select the Strictness of filter that you want (for example, in late game, Very Strict).

3. Under the “Customize” tab, scroll down to Miscellaneous >>> Optional Filter Modules >>> Animate Weapon Mode. Enable it.

4. Make any other changes you want to customize your loot filter, then either (a) download the text file, put it in the correct folder and load it in Path of Exile, or (b) sync it to your PoE profile using the Filterblade instructions.

5. Passive Tree

Final Passive Tree

Path of Building (POB)

Basic POB:

Note: this shows DPS-relevant gear only, use common sense to fill out the missing resists, stats, etc.

The combination of "Divine Shield" and "Eternal Youth" cause energy shield recharge to apply to life, but then damage prevented by armor recovers ES. This is only good once you have a lot of armor on your gear. Divine Shield isn't worth taking if you have low armor.

Lategame Sample POB: (for patch 3.17)

Uses Devouring Diadem to add extra auras. Optimized toward fast clearing and tankiness.
You need the Community version of Path of Building

The program was created by Openarl, and can be downloaded here:

You will also need the community-maintained fork version, which adds several useful features and more regular updates. Once PoB is installed, follow the instructions here:

After you update Path of Building to the newest version, follow these steps to load a build:
- Click "New" (top middle) for a new build
- "Import/Export build" at top left
- "Import from Pastebin", paste the URL given above, and click "Import".

How to Calculate Your Animated Weapon DPS in POB

1. In the "Items" tab, go to the top for Item Set, click "Manage"

2. Click "New", name the new item set something (like "shank") and then set that as your active equipment set.

3. Still in the Items tab, go to the right side and click "Create custom..."

4. In the dropdown, select "Normal", and then type
Glass Shank

5. Change your active equipment set back to Default, for the gear you're actually using.

6. On the left side of the screen where you see Main Skill (Animate Weapon), there is a dropdown which may read Default Item Set. Instead select "shank" (or whatever you named your custom item set with the custom Glass Shank in it)

7. Under Configuration settings, check the box which says "Are you Animating Lingering Blades."

Done! You should now see an accurate estimate of your minion's DPS. Multiply by the number of Weapons you can summon to estimate your boss DPS.

Explanation of Configuration settings

- Minions have power/frenzy charges from Raised Spectres on Silverbacks/Chieftains in A6 Riverways
- For Elemental Army, check the box in Configuration and pick the correct element for exposure.
(Any buffs from Animate Guardian equipment not included.)

Ascendancy Choices

Recommended Order:
1. Mindless Aggression - boosts minion damage and movement speed to kill stuff faster.

2. Mistress of Sacrifice - increases Animate Weapon duration and lets us benefit from Flesh Offering. Can take this first if DPS is sufficient and want the QOL improvement sooner.

3. Commander of Darkness gives more DPS and resists - very handy right before killing Kitava in Act 10.

4. Unnatural Strength - +2 Minion Gem levels from Eternal Lab so our minions HP and damage continues scaling nicely into the endgame.

Optional: Bone Barrier as a substitute to Commander of Darkness, if you have enough DPS and very good gear, and prefer slightly better defenses. Put "Bone Armor" skill on left-click and it will automatically activate the buff while moving!

Why Necromancer?

The main reason to play Necro is the Mistress of Sacrifice node:

- 40% Increased Skill Effect Duration
- Your Offerings also Affect You, with 50% Reduced Effect on You

Increased duration is not available on any other ascendancy, and reduces the amount of times recasting minions, improving QOL and clear speed.

Alternately, if defense is the priority, Bone Offering for Block Chance is a huge help for relatively little investment.

Guardian will have slightly less DPS and require more investment into Minion Life than Necro given the same gear. The advantage is that minions will have higher movement speed buffs from that ascendancy.

Scion is also viable, but it will have considerably lower damage. The main reason to choose Scion would be for the Pathfinder flask nodes for Chains of Command (beyond the scope of this guide).

Bandits & Pantheon

Kill all the Bandits for skill points.

When fully upgraded the Soul of Lunaris lets us avoid chained projectiles, which are otherwise very dangerous to a summoner. Lunaris also has some helpful damage reductions which we otherwise are weak on, making this the favored choice.

As a minor god, I'd suggest Gruthkul (more phys reduction) or Shakari (poison defense if you lack Chaos Resistance). Optional: switch to Ryslatha for going through Labyrinth.

Cluster Jewels

How cluster jewels work: These special jewels may only be socketed in jewel nodes on the outer edge of the passive tree, and will have varying numbers of small passives, notables, and implicits within them.

Try to get a cluster jewel with the minimum number of passives on it to save on points - for large, the minimum will be 8 passives. On a medium, 4 or 5 are equally efficient.

With a large cluster jewel that has 8 passives, you can spend 7 points for 3 excellent notables plus two jewel sockets to place medium cluster jewels in.

Large Cluster Notables (small passives: minions have increased damage):
  • Renewal: Minions Regenerate 1% of Life per second; Minions have 5% chance to deal Double Damage while they are on Full Life.
    Great DPS boost - high priority.
  • Vicious Bite: Minions have 30% increased Critical Strike Chance and +15% to Critical Strike Multiplier.
    Animated Blades have good base crit making this very strong.
  • Call to the Slaughter: Minions deal 15% increased Damage; Minions created Recently have 10% increased Attack and Cast Speed, and 30% increased Movement Speed.
    Not as useful as it looks because minions last much more than 4 seconds (recently)
  • Feasting Fiends: Minions have 10% increased maximum Life; Minions deal 10% increased Damage; Minions Leech 0.4% of Damage as Life.
    Allows you to drop minion life leech nodes from the passive tree
  • Primordial Bond: 10% increased Damage per Summoned Golem; 40% increased Effect of Buffs granted by your Golems; Golems have 25% increased Maximum Life
    Increased Carrion Golem buff helps damage.

Medium Cluster Notables (small passives: minions have increased life):
  • Feasting Fiends. (See above)
  • Renewal. (See above)
  • Life from Death: Minions have 15% increased maximum Life; Regenerate 2% of Life per second if a Minion has Died Recently; Minions Recover 4% of Life on Minion Death.
    Keeps animated weapons alive, as minion duration expiring counts as "dying recently"! High priority.
  • Dread March: Minions have- 10% increased maximum Life, 10% increased Movement Speed, 10% additional Physical Damage Reduction and +10% to Chaos Resistance.
    Excellent for minion survivability.

Small Cluster Jewels sockets are best used to place regular or Abyssal jewels into. Note that radius effects are disabled within cluster jewels, making these slots ideal for placing Fortress Covenant and Quickening Covenant. If you use these unique jewels, they must go into the Cluster sockets.

"Enduring Composure" notable on an Armor small jewel to generate Endurance charges is recommended.

6. Leveling Guide

From a fresh character in a new league up to the end game.

Important playstyle tip: don't try to summon all your weapons at the start of a zone. Instead, summon a few, and then animate the weapons that drop from mobs. You will easily stay at maximum weapons and never have to stop and resummon until you leave the zone.

Acts 1 to 2

Item goals:
  • several 3-linked items with G B B or G B R colors.
  • Sell unidentified magic items for Transmute shards (needed to buy skill gems).
  • Boots with Movement Speed (check vendors)
  • Jade Amulet for Dex requirements.
  • any rarity of Bone Spirit Shield, to be used for a vendor recipe. Drops in Act 2.

Act 1. After Hillock, take Raise Zombie. Purchase Ethereal Knives.

In Submerged Passage, take Frostblink and purchase Animate Weapon. You can now use Ethereal Knives to fuel your weapon summonings!

After Tidal Island, take Quicksilver Flask and Spell Cascade (won't need this right away).

After Brutus, take Flame Dash, replace Frostblink. Buy Minion Damage, Added Lightning and optionally: Clarity aura.

Before Merveil, get Flesh Offering and buy Melee Splash to either level up or use right away.

Animate Weapon - Added Lightning - Minion Damage (or Melee Splash)
Ethereal Knives, Flame Dash (unlinked).
Raise Zombie - linked to whatever. (optional)

Act 2. Intruders in Black: take Desecrate.

The Weaver: take Minion Speed. Can buy Melee Physical Damage.

Passive Tree: End of Act 1

As Dexterity is an issue, pathing into the Precision passive node by Templar can make leveling much smoother with added cast rate (re-spec out of this later).

Acts 3 to 5

Item goals:
  • get a 4-linked helmet with 1-2 green socket, 1-2 blue and 1-2 red (check vendors).
  • Recipe: magic helmet + Orb of Alteration + Life Flask of Animation = +1 Minion Gems Helmet.
    (Bone Spirit Shield + Life Flask + Orb of Transmutation = Flask of Animation)

NOTE for patch 3.19 this vendor recipe may be changed!

Act 3.

Tolman: take Convocation. Buy the Hatred aura and Frostbite curse from Clarissa.

Ribbon Spool: take a Jade Amulet to help with dexterity requirements.

Gravicius: take Raise Spectre, purchase Bladefall. (Can Link Bladefall to Spell Cascade.) Keep Bladefall at level 1 (do not level it up!) to keep mana cost and stat requirements down.

Fixture of Fate: take Feeding Frenzy, buy Generosity (can also skip this quest and get those gems in Act 6 instead).

Passive Tree: end of Act 3

Act 4. Pick Summon Carrion Golem after opening the mines and start using it.

After Kaom and Daresso, you can take Multistrike and/or Unleash.

Gem links will depend on items found so far, but the goal is to have:

- Animate Weapon in a 4-link with +1 minion gem levels. Supports include Minion Speed, Melee Splash, Added Lightning or Added Cold and Minion Damage (depending on colors in your gear);
- Bladefall - Spell Cascade (optional);
- Carrion Golem - Feeding Frenzy;
- Auras: Hatred and Clarity (optional);
- Flesh Offering, Desecrate and Convocation un-linked.

Do first Labyrinth before entering Act 5.
Passive Tree: End of Act 5

Acts 6 to 10

Item Goals: Capped (75%) resistances.

Act 6. After clearing Twilight Strand for Lilly, purchase some gems to level up or use: Summon Skitterbots, Animate Guardian, Generosity, Elemental Army, Elemental Damage with Attacks, and any others you might have skipped earlier.

Go back to A1 and buy as many copies of Animate Weapon as you can fit in off-hand weapon slots, and begin leveling them. [Once these eventually reach Level 20, you can attempt to corrupt them with a Vaal Orb to acquire a Level 21 gem, or use the vendor recipe (L20 Gem + Gemcutters Prism = 20 Quality gem) to get a quality Animate Weapon.]

Acts 7 to 8. Item Goals: acquire defensive utility flasks.

Silver Locket: take Granite Flask.

Wings of Vastri: take Conqueror's Efficiency as reward, consider socketing it if you have mana issues.

Act 9. As soon as a Divine Life Flask drops, upgrade its quality to 20% and roll an Instant Recovery prefix onto it with Alteration Orbs, then use Einhar's Menagerie to craft Bleed Immunity (of Sealing) onto it. You can use that flask for the whole game!

Act 10. Safe Passage quest reward: take Quartz Flask (very useful for Delve).

Complete Cruel and Merciless Labyrinth at some point before entering maps.
Passive Tree: Entering Maps

Common Issues in Early Maps

Going into maps you'll be about Level 66-70 and your resistances might be bad. However, what you should have is a 4-link helmet with +1 minion gems and hopefully other gear with some HP.

"I Just got to Maps and my Gear is Awful!"

Relax, this is why we play a summoner! The only "required" unique is Triad Grip and while these gloves do boost DPS, it should be possible to progress before finding or trading for them (and they are dirt cheap...) In fact, having a full elemental conversion probably doesn't even matter until late yellow/early red maps where monsters have high armor ratings.

"My Resistances are Bad!"

Use the Crafting Bench to add resists to your gear. Even with early crafts you should be able to get them to decent levels. You can also spec into parts of the passive tree which add resists, and re-allocate those points later.

"I run Out of Mana all the time!"

Take the nodes near Templar which give extra mana and reduced mana cost, and re-allocate them later. You may not be able to run Skitterbots right away until leveling up more, and can use Clarity aura instead. Get an Eternal Mana flask with the "Enduring" prefix.

"My Minions die a Lot!"

Early on you can trade for a Skullhead helmet and it will keep both you and your minions alive.

By default, minions have no life regen. Minion leech on the tree or a jewel is the best way to sustain their HP. Taking more minion life and defense nodes will help. Animated Weapons gain a significant amount of HP with more gem levels so in the very late game you can re-spec out of some minion life nodes that you took early on.

"Animate Weapon AI is crap!"

The main problem is they're slow. Faster minions track enemies farther and are more aggressive. A 20% quality gem helps. You can link Minion Speed to get more movement speed at small expense to DPS. Heavily prioritize getting minion speed crafted on rings/amulet with open suffix, or as an affix on a wand in the late game.

Item Progression Goals

There are several item milestones to seek out as you progress deeper into the Atlas. In order of priority, those are:

- Capped (75%) elemental resistances.

- 5-linked body armor. Cheap to trade for. If playing SSF, you can farm Flora's Gift cards as a temporary measure, and use a staff until you get a good armor drop. Save your Jewelers and Fuses!

- Triad Grip Gloves, socket colors irrelevant. Can start using Elemental Damage with Attacks support efficiently after equpping these.

- Positive (>0%) Chaos resistance, better when possible.

- A few decent Abyssal Jewels to improve your maximum life and minion damage (see that section in Gear).

- Color Triad Grip gloves with 4 Green sockets. (Video) You'll need to enter Delve and go down very slightly to get the socketing recipe, and have saved up a few hundred Jeweler's Orbs from vendoring 6-socket items.

- Anoint Ravenous Horde (or other good notable) onto amulet with blight oils.

- Unlock Jun's "Trigger Socketed Spells..." craft, and acquire a Wand good enough to be worth applying this onto.

- Trade for 6-linked body armor (if SSF, suggested to farm for cards to get this. I recommend against attempting to link it yourself at this stage).

- Get Level 21 Animate Weapon gem, either through trade or by using a Vaal Orb on a Level 20 gem you have leveled up (this can take a few tries...)

- Other more expensive upgrades such as a good amulet and rings, specialized cluster or timeless jewel setups, top-tier Abyssals, Level 21/20 quality gems, Awakened Supports, etc etc to fully maximize the build!

*** 7. Final Gem Links ***

Cold Conversion - Animate Weapon Supports (5L/6L)

Choose 3 or 4 damage supports (roughly in order of importance):
  • Added Cold Damage (Awakened)
  • Increased Critical Damage (must have power charges from spectres for this to be good).
  • Cold Penetration (Awakened)
  • Minion Damage (Awakened) – this reduces minion HP, switch it out if they are dying!

…and 1 or 2 utility supports to make life easier:
  • Melee Splash for clear speed, and switch in Multistrike for difficult bosses
  • Unleash - when going through area with a lot of new zones (Delve, Labyrinth) this allows you to summon multiple weapons at once - very convenient!
  • Minion Speed is most useful early on before you can stack minion speed on gear/passives. It does make Animated Weapons much more aggressive.

Elemental Damage with Attacks (Awakened), Hypothermia or Elemental Focus (Awakened) are also fine, and you can test them depending on your gear.

Cold Conversion - Utility Skills

Gloves: Dash (Level 13) - Second Wind. Bladefall (Level 1), Precision (Low Level).

(Other options: Vaal Haste, Temporal Rift, Portal, or link Culling Strike to Bladefall).

Must fill those 4 green sockets in Triad Grip somehow. Don't level the Dex gems all the way, keep requirements under 111 Dex to make gearing easier! (How to get 4 green sockets into Triad Grip).

Support Minions (Helmet):

Raise Spectre - Animate Guardian - Elemental Army - Meat Shield.

Elemental Army will cause utility minions to apply Exposure to Cold on hit (-10 Cold Resistance), and also keep them alive. For spectres we summon a Stygian Silverback plus a Host Chieftain from Act 6 Riverways to give Frenzy/Power charges to our minions. Meat Shield is optional, but helpful if spectres are dying.

Golem: Summon Carrion Golem - Feeding Frenzy and Convocation.

Weapon: Desecrate, Flesh Offering, Assassin's Mark.

(Weapon has crafted "Trigger Socketed Spells when using a Skill"). This will automatically cast the Flesh Offering buff as you use other skills. Assassin's Mark will help kill bosses faster when it is triggered. If mana costs are an issue, link these to a Lifetap gem (and instead put Desecrate in the gloves and cast it manually as needed).

The Golem's job is to apply the Feeding Frenzy buff by hitting enemies. Convocation helps clear speed by gathering minions to you and focusing their damage on closer targets.


Hatred - Generosity

There is a choice to be made here, between (1) Maximum DPS:

Summon Skitterbots - Bonechill - Unbound Ailments.

and (2) Better Defenses:

Determination aura, and Cast When Damage Taken - Molten Shell. Keep these at low level. (You can instead use Immortal Call if you get a small cluster jewel with Enduring Composure). This makes you much less likely to die!

Alternate Quality Gem Upgrades

From the 3.12 Heist content, there are now diffferent "flavors" of gem quality you can find or trade for. Some are useful upgrades! (Note for patch 3.15: some have been adjusted or patched and this section might be out of date).

As a key, (1) = Anomalous; (2) = Divergent; (3) = Phantasmal.
  • Carrion Golem (1): 20% increased Buff Effect
  • Convocation (1): Buff grants 40% increased Movement Speed
  • Flesh Offering (2): Grants Minions 10% increased Attack Speed
  • Assassin's Mark (1): Cursed enemies take 4% increased Damage
  • Raise Spectre (1): 20% increased Minion Maximum Life
  • Animate Guardian (2): 40% increased Minion Maximum Life
  • Melee Splash (2): Supported Skills deal 40% more Damage to surrounding targets

For Animate Weapon itself, the basic gem quality for Increased Movement Speed is already very good. However, you can experiment with others and adjust your build accordingly.

  • (1) Minions have 10% chance to Intimidate Enemies for 4 seconds on Hit. Causes enemies to take 10% more damage.
  • (2) 20% chance to create an additional Animate Weapon copy. Very nice for QOL! Substitutes for an otherwise-expensive helmet enchant.
  • (3) Minions deal 0 to 100 Added Lightning Damage. Not useful.

(this section was written during patch 3.12 and parts may be outdated).

Last edited by ThanatoZGaming on Aug 12, 2023, 7:34:30 PM
Last bumped on Aug 16, 2023, 11:19:34 AM
8. Choosing Gear

As a general rule when picking between rares, Armor is the best defensive stat as it’s the only one scaled by the passive tree. Energy Shield is useful, and Evasion is worthless.

All rare items should have at least +50 Maximum Life, or hopefully better (80+), in order to be considered really good.

We must find approximately +70 Dexterity from gear to reach gem requirements. Best sources for Dexterity are Rings, Amulet, Boots, or Jewels.

For what to look at in specific item slots, read on!

Gloves: Triad Grip

Build-defining item here! Triad Grip to convert minion damage to elemental. It's a frequent drop and can be found easily even in SSF.

90 second guide: how to get 4 green sockets into Triad Grip.

Optional late-game: gloves corrupted to apply a curse or give +% increased Maximum Life.

Body Armor

Defense: Belly of the Beast for a massive HP and armour boost.Bloodbond is similar but less strong because it has Evasion rather than Armor. (budget option).

DPS: Skin of the Loyal. Can be found early in a league if lucky with socket colors. For best outcome, have corrupted with +2 to Duration Skill Gems.

Clear Speed: Saqawal's Nest. Aspect of the Avian is powerful buff to damage and move speed. May require you to shift around your auras/passive tree a bit to accommodate. Look for a good roll on “reduced mana reserved” on this item if you get it. Defensively weak.

Rare Armor: useful stats on influenced rare armor include...
  • +1 to Level of Socketed Active Skill Gems (prefix, Shaper or Warlord)
  • #% increased effect of Non-Curse Auras from your Skills (suffix, Redeemer)
  • You can apply an additional Curse (prefix, Hunter)
  • #% increased effect of Offerings (suffix, Hunter)

Honorable Mention: Cloak of Tawm'r Isley. Having magic items drop identified is designed for this build, and gives you a higher quality of minion if you are bothering to click on dropped weapons. Downside is this item is a very rare drop so it’s expensive, and getting red or green socket colors is difficult.


Unique Helmets:
  • Skullhead is cheap and has nice defensive boosts. Annoying to get blue sockets in it but can serve through the early game.
  • The Devouring Diadem opens up the option to use an extra aura, and also fixes any mana issues by granting Eldritch Battery.
  • Ancient Skull is NOT recommended, because it will cause your spectres to die all the time.

The ultimate best-in-slot is likely a rare, Elder-influenced Bone Helmet with minion damage, minion life, added gem levels, etc. in addition to life and resistances. This will be expensive.

Helmet Crafting

You can obtain an elder-influenced Bone Helmet with the Nook's Crown card (ilvl 100, only from Catarina in Mastermind’s Lair) or the Dark Dreams divination card from exile Minara Anemina. These can be gotten through trade or Stacked Deck cards, likely not realistic to drop them for SSF.

Crafting your Bone Helmet:

Option 1) Slam with Essence of Fear (+% minion life) and hope for something else that’s good.

Option 2) Fossil crafting. Use some combination of Bound Fossil (minion mods) and Pristine Fossils (life mods).

Faceted Fossil can increase the chance for level of socketed minion gems, but that fossil is rare and expensive relative to the added power it actually gives – probably not worth it.

Visit to see what fossils influence the mods you can get.

Helmet Enchants:
  • 24% chance to create an additional Animate Weapon copy (Highly recommended for QOL)
  • 30% increased Animate Weapon Duration.
  • Flesh Offering grants 21% increased Attack Speed.
  • 150% increased Effect of the Buff granted by your Carrion Golems.
  • Increased Animate Weapon damage.
  • Dash has +2 Cooldown Uses
  • Reduced mana reservation on Hatred or Skitterbots.


Weapon: best possible will be a rare Convoking Wand. Desirable stats for DPS:
  • Minions Deal #% Increased Damage (prefix)
  • Minions Deal #% Increased Damage and have % chance to deal double damage (Incursion)
  • Increased Minion Attack Speed (suffix)
  • +1 to Level of all Physical Skill Gems (prefix)
  • +1 to Level of all Spell Skill Gems (prefix)
  • Increased Minion Duration (Incursion suffix)

The wand should have an open suffix to craft “trigger socketed spells when you use a skill.”

Crafting a Great Wand

Depending on what stage your character is in, there's a variety of ways you can craft your own excellent wand.

Starting point: a Convoking Wand, preferably of Ilvl 82 or higher.

Essence (Cheap) Method: Essence of Fear can give up to "Minions deal (63–69)% increased Damage", depending on tier of the Essence, with the rest of affixes randomly generated. Hope for something else that's good!

Trade and Craft Method: often wands or scepters with +1 to Physical Skill Gems and #% Increased Minion Damage/Chance for Double Damage (from Incursion) will be priced very low, because not many builds want those stats. You can trade for one cheap, Orb of Annulment if needed to hopefully get an open suffix, and create a serviceable item.

Multi-Mod: with two open suffixes and one open prefix, you can craft "this item can have up to 3 crafted modifiers" and then add two other mods, such as minion damage or movement speed. This costs at minimum two Exalts and is therefore often more expensive than just trading for a decent item.

Fossil Craft. To get a wand with +2 to gem levels, use the following fossil/resonator combos:
  • 4: Corroded + Faceted + Lucent + Shuddering
  • 4: Aetheric + Corroded + Lucent + Shuddering
  • 3: Aetheric + Corroded + Shuddering
  • 3: Aetheric + Corroded + Jagged
  • 2: Aetheric + Corroded

Fossil Crafting improves the odds significantly by limiting the mods you roll, but can still take many tries to get what you want. Costs can easily range from 2 to 7+ exalts before a good outcome.

Visit to experiment with different fossil combinations. (This section was written around patch 3.12 and may be outdated).

Vendor recipe: Normal rarity Caster Weapon + gems with the "Physical" tag adding up to total of 40 gem quality --> Weapon with "+1 to physical spell skill gems." This is useful for SSF.

Cold Iron Point dagger for +3 to Physical Skill Gems - very strong!


Several good unique options:
  • Ahn's Heritage gives good defenses/max resists. Two Fragility jewels grants permanent Onslaught if move/cast speed matters more than DPS.
  • Lioneye's Remorse for very high life and defenses.
  • Whakatutuki o Matua improves DPS by buffing auras. Weak defensively due to no added life.
  • Victario's Charity can be used to generate frenzy charges for minions. Typically spectres would be used for charges but this is a backup option.

Optionally, in the late game you can get a shield which has Recover #% of life on Block, or use The Surrender. Combined with Bone Offering (instead of Flesh Offering) this is a way to improve defenses late game if they feel lacking.

Jewelry – Ring, Amulet, Belt

Attributes to look for on Jewelry items:
  • Maximum life
  • Resistances (elemental and chaos)
  • Dexterity
  • Reduced mana cost of skills, Maximum Mana, and Mana Regeneration Rate (helps sustain casting spells).
  • Rings and Amulet: open suffix to craft "minions have increased movement speed"

Belt: a rare Abyssal Vise with life and resistances. You can use a Bound Fossil or an Essence to get a belt with “+% minion life”.

Mother's Embrace is a potential build-around item having minions use flasks, but this character is not really optimized for it. Leash of Oblation allows offerings of all types, another neat build-around, but finding enough sockets to put all those Offerings in will be tough.

String of Servitude is available double-corrupted. "Increased Effect of Hatred Aura" has potential to be highest DPS option on belt.

Rings: the best possible ring will have “Minions deal #% increased damage” (Redeemer influenced) and “Minions have #% increased movement speed” added by the crafting bench, plus life and resists.

“Curse enemies with… on hit” can roll on an influenced ring, to save having to apply a curse some other way.

Amulet: Ultimate goal is to get a rare influenced amulet with +level to Dexterity Gems, +Level to Physical Gems, and a suffix to craft on “Minions have #% increased movement speed.”

Amulets also are a great spot to get some needed dexterity for gem requirements.

Low Budget Amulets:
The Jinxed Juju will cause spectres to take some of the damage for us, which is good defensively if they have sufficient HP. Aura effectiveness also helps DPS.
Sidhebreath for DPS. For cheap and purely defensive, consider Bloodgrip (prevents bleed), or Winterheart (prevents chill).

Amulet Anoints:
  • Ravenous Horde is best for clear speed. (Verdant - Silver - Golden)
  • Death Attunement for an additional Spectre. (Clear - Crimson - Silver)
  • Indomitable Army to keep minions alive. (Violet - Crimson - Silver)

*** Jewels ***

The passive tree puts high priority on jewel sockets because a ton of our final DPS comes from well-rolled jewels. If playing in SSF, dedicate some effort toward crafting them.

Ghastly Eye Abyssal Jewels are the best rare jewels for bonuses to life and damage, so this section is a bit long.

Desirable prefixes:
  • +# Maximum Life
  • Minions deal (15–17) to (22–26) additional Physical Damage
  • Minions deal # to # additional Cold Damage (Much weaker than added Phys)

Desirable suffixes:
  • Minions deal 15-20% increased Damage if you've used a Minion Skill Recently
  • Minions have #% increased Attack Speed / Cast Speed
  • Minions have (6–8)% increased Attack and Cast Speed if you or your Minions have Killed Recently (weaker)
  • # to Dexterity or All Attributes (if needed for gear stats)
  • Minions have (6–8)% chance to Taunt on Hit with Attacks (On at least one jewel).
  • Minions have (5–6)% chance to Blind on Hit with Attacks (On at least one jewel).

Getting the most damage from jewels:
Whether the "% increased" minion damage or flat "additional damage" is best for DPS will depend on the aggregate of other gear stats so there's no one size fits all rule.

Added Physical is much better than added Cold because Hatred will double-dip from it. Other added elements (fire/lightning) are almost worthless.

Before trading for a jewel, I suggest copying its stats and pasting them into Path of Building using "create custom..." item to pre-test them in your build. Very similar-looking jewels can be very different for your DPS, and the magnitude or "tier" of mods make a huge difference!

Cobalt Jewels are on average worse than abyssals, with far fewer good attributes. Desirable stats:
  • % Increased Maximum Life
  • Minions deal #% increased Damage
  • Minions have % increased life, resistances, or accuracy rating (not very useful)
  • Mana Regeneration Rate, Reduced Mana cost of Skills (if mana sustain is an issue)
  • Minion attack speed (if crafted with a Bound Fossil).

Unique Jewels: Fortress Covenant is a large damage and survivability boost for minions. Place it in a Cluster jewel-created socket. Quickening Covenant is also okay, but not quite as good.

Anatomical Knowledge can be placed between the Witch and Templar areas for a nice life boost, or Careful Planning in that same spot if starved for Dexterity on gear.

Watcher's Eye: most mods will only boost the player and not minions so there are practically no benefits to be gained here.

Corrupted Jewels from using a Vaal Orb can give:
  • Corrupted Blood Cannot be Inflicted (highly desirable and expensive)
  • Cannot be Cursed with Silence (not essential but convenient)
  • 1% Reduced mana reserved
  • Minions deal (4–5)% increased Damage

Unique jewels are best place to get these corruptions. I’d recommend against corrupting good rare jewels, as it's more likely to ruin an item than be a win.


This build has room for a lot of defensive flasks because they're not needed for extra damage.

You should always have:
- Seething/Bubbling Divine Life Flask of Staunching (bleed removal)
- (Some prefix) Quicksilver Flask of Adrenaline or Warding (move speed or curse removal).

Along with your choice of defensive utility flasks. I would always carry a Quartz Flask to gain phasing - good to avoid being cornered by mobs and prevent desync, especially in Delve).

Have an Enduring Eternal Mana Flask available for no regen maps, or in case you have mana problems when summoning a bunch of weapons.

Only a few Unique Flasks are worth considering. Rumi's Concoction is excellent defensively. Bottled Faith is the only flask good for DPS, but it's expensive!

Forbidden Taste in gear that manipulates how chaos damage is taken could be interesting.

9. Advanced Topics

Applying Curses

Cursing bosses will improve damage. There are a few ways to do that.

- Self-cast a curse, manually. Effective, but requires an extra hotkey.

- In your weapon with "Trigger Socketed Spell..." crafted, include a curse gem (Assassin's Mark or Frostbite). This is the easiest, but is not reliable - will sometimes miss the enemy you want to curse.

- Link Bladefall - Hextouch - Curse. Easiest solution, and gives the most powerful curse effect, but there are not enough gem slots available to do this.

- Influenced Rings (Hunter/Warlord) can give a Level 5 or Level 8 curse on hit. Then it's applied with Bladefall.

- Gloves corrupted with a Vaal Orb can gain "Curse on Hit". These will be level 10-12 curses, so more effective than from a ring.

- Curse on Hit corrupted gloves worn by the Animate Guardian.

- Use Raise Spectre on an enemy which casts curses. Death Bishop from The Catacombs or Caverns Level 2 will cast Frostbite.

For average map clearing the curse is not really necessary, but the DPS boost against bosses is nice to have.

Animated Guardian Gear

Animate Guardian is not strictly necessary for this build, but it does give a nice bit of DPS and is definitely "on theme" for animated weapons!

Its items will persist even after logging out of the game (as long as the Guardian doesn't die). Therefore, when picking gear for your Animate Guardian, there will be a balance to strike between offensive and defensive stats.

By taking the Mastery passive "minions recover 5% of life on minion death", your Guardian is very unlikely to die. Look for extra Chaos Resistance on gear wherever possible, as that is where the Guardian is weakest.

Highly Recommended Uniques:

Head: Leer Cast or Redeemer-influenced helmet with “Enemies have -9% to Cold Resistance.” Nice DPS boosts.

Gloves: Southbound (extra HP), and/or gloves corrupted with curse on hit for Enfeeble or Elemental Weakness.

Boots: Victario’s Flight to make the whole team move faster.

Body: Ambu’s Charge, Belly of the Beast, or Gruthkul’s Pelt in increasing levels of defensive power relative to budget. Garb of the Ephemeral can prevent you being slowed or hit by crits.

Weapon Setup #1 (defensive, cheap):Singularity (enemies hindered), plus Sign of the Sin Eater (guardian takes ailments instead of you - VERY helpful).

Weapon Setup #2: (offensive, expensive): Kingmaker for culling strike, crit multi, rarity and Fortify.

10. Conclusion

Thank you for reading this far! There's a lot of great discussion in the comments, please join in.

Many thanks to all the people who have contributed comments while this build has gone through many iterations and improvements. The guide would not be where it is now without your help!

Last edited by ThanatoZGaming on Jan 20, 2022, 9:44:49 AM
Would the level of those knives skill affect the damage of animate weapons summoned from them? For example, a lvl 21 baldefall will leave maybe item level 70 knives on the ground, which would in turn increase the base dps of the knives?
What a great guide! I think we will learn a lot as GGG gives us more details and this could be the best post on animated weapons!

I wonder if the stats of the weapon you animate with animate weapon spell impact the dps and survivability of the animated weapons?

Also, will the summoned knives from the ethereal blade spells have different stats based on the item level of the ethereal blade spell and the support gems linked to the ethereal blade spell when it was cast? (like would the summoned blades from a lvl 1 ethereal blade spell with no support gems be worse than the summoned blades from a lvl 23 ethereal blade spell that was linked to added cold damage support, added fire damage support, added lightning damage support, melee splash support, multistrike support)

solidghost wrote:
Would the level of those knives skill affect the damage of animate weapons summoned from them? For example, a lvl 21 baldefall will leave maybe item level 70 knives on the ground, which would in turn increase the base dps of the knives?

No, it appears it does not. From the GGG post on Blade Blast:

"Animate Weapon adds bonus physical damage to Ethereal Blades based on the level of the Animate weapon skill... This also means that blades from a low level Bladefall can be used by a high level Animate Weapon as effectively as a high level Bladefall's blades."

LilyKittens4 wrote:

I wonder if the stats of the weapon you animate with animate weapon spell impact the dps and survivability of the animated weapons?

The weapon does affect the DPS. Animate Weapon takes the base damage, attack speed, crit etc off the weapon, adds its own bonuses, and thats the final DPS.

LilyKittens4 wrote:

Also, will the summoned knives from the ethereal blade spells have different stats based on the item level of the ethereal blade spell and the support gems linked to the ethereal blade spell when it was cast?

No - see the link above. It appears that all the weapons summoned by all blade spells have the same stats, being equivalent to a Glass Shank. But, then Animate Weapon adds a special bonus onto ethereal weapons, which is based on the AW skill level (not the level of the skill that summoned the weapons).

I'll add this info to next version of the guide as it is not obvious. Thanks for your interest!
Another question regarding the knives skill - how will it affect the life of the animated weapons summoned from them?
Krav mentioned about using a buffed Carrion golem (which gives flat phys to minions) to the setup. At lvl 26, it gives about 40 to 60 physical damage to non-golem minions. Not too shabby, especially considering that the glass shank has just 6-10 base phys damage.
solidghost wrote:
Another question regarding the knives skill - how will it affect the life of the animated weapons summoned from them?

If it works same as currently, base item doesn't affect HP of summoned weapon. I didn't read anything to indicate that would be changing- it appears all the tweaks are on the damage/AI side.

solidghost wrote:
Krav mentioned about using a buffed Carrion golem (which gives flat phys to minions) to the setup. At lvl 26, it gives about 40 to 60 physical damage to non-golem minions. Not too shabby, especially considering that the glass shank has just 6-10 base phys damage.

Carrion Golem is definitely worth running. Added flat damage from anywhere is really good because AW has such high effectiveness for added damage (of course, this is looking at 3.9 numbers, who can say what 3.10 changes).

Doing full elemental conversion we'd be using Immolate and getting a big chunk of flat fire damage against ignited enemies, which makes Carrion Golem less impactful (but still good). Going pure Phys and without Immolate, even taking the Golem Commander cluster is highly efficient for DPS because the flat damage is so impactful.

In short it's definitely good. If you can get high levels of Carrion Golem it's totally worth it. Only question is how hard do you want to invest there.
On the topic of the Carrion golem: I wouldn't rule out Elementalist as an ascendancy for Animate Weapon builds. Especially since Necro could get a nerf in 3.10.

With Elementalist you can get the Carrion golem's buff easily over 200 flat physical and on top of that you get insane life regen from Stone golem and heavy phys reduction from Chaos golem.

Everything will ofcourse depend on the rebalance of Animate Weapon. I'm very much looking forward to the rebalanced gem preview!
Soepkieken wrote:
On the topic of the Carrion golem: I wouldn't rule out Elementalist as an ascendancy for Animate Weapon builds. Especially since Necro could get a nerf in 3.10.

With Elementalist you can get the Carrion golem's buff easily over 200 flat physical and on top of that you get insane life regen from Stone golem and heavy phys reduction from Chaos golem.

Everything will ofcourse depend on the rebalance of Animate Weapon. I'm very much looking forward to the rebalanced gem preview!

good point on elementalist! but it seems like only two ascendencies would be good for animate weapon build (the golem ones)?

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