[3.10] Cold ANIMATE WEAPON Summoner | League-Start & Leveling Guide | Low Budget, High DPS!
It's like playing Summon Raging Spirit but the minions last longer and deal more damage!
How to Read This Guide: sections marked with stars (***) are essential to understand the build. For those in a hurry, read the marked sections first! Then go back to read the rest. Please read the whole guide before asking questions.
Please don't message me with with questions in-game. That is what the guide is for! The thread here is very active, if you ask here either I or someone else will answer your question, and others can read and benefit.
Changelog (Most Recent: March 20)
3/20/2020: Sample gear added, and FAQs about Spectres and EE.
3/18/2020: Updated POB for level 93 character. Added videos for T16s.
3/17/2020: Added Red Map delirium gamplay video. Updated sample passive tree at level 90.
3/16/2020: added note to emphasize custom loot filter. Video guide posted.
3/15/2020: Added POB of level 85 character. Now correctly shows DPS! Cluster jewel section moved to front, I think those are key to maximizing the build. Yellow maps video uploaded.
3/14/2020: after some play experience, I've updated the tree (don't think duration nodes are needed), and posted a gameplay video from early maps. Other small changes to leveling guide based on feedback I've gotten.
3/13/2020: Custom item filters updated. Good luck in the league!
3/12/2020: gem links and leveling section update. Essential update to 3.10 patch note info.
3/11/2020: More revisions complete, streamlined formatting and new POB. Ascendancy order section added.
3/11/2020: patch note update, cold scaling now favored. In the process of updating large sections of guide, parts may still be outdated for a day or so.
3/10/2020: Cluster jewel section, added note to Gem Setup (check back for revision here)
3/8/2020: flask section.
3/7/2020: added explanation of why Necromancer class is preferred.
3/5/2020: cosmetic changes, improvements to introductory sections, pros and cons.
3/4/2020: suggested leveling trees added.
3/3/2020: added Map Mods, Advanced setups, and comment on Spellslinger automation method.
3/2/2020: Added video guide for getting 4 green sockets in Triad Grip. and FAQ section.
3/1/2020: added more about full cold conversion option. Updated utility gems section for that.
2/29/2020: Large update to gearing, added skill tree.
- added Animate Guardian, Utility Gems section, leveling section, curse section.
- added gem links for fire conversion, cleaned up gear section, added cold conversion discussion.
2/28/2020: Original post.
- added section on how DPS for your animated weapons works, under “Mechanics”
Video guide now available! Overview of the gear/gems setup, and how to tweak the passive tree.
- 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
Frequently Asked Questions
Pros and Cons
+ Safe playstyle with minions that chill, freeze, taunt and blind enemies.
+ High DPS for bosses.
+ Can do all map mods.
+ Low budget to get started, but scales easily into end game.
+ Can get high health and/or hybrid defenses, with easy 200% increased life on tree.
+ Very flexible passive tree that benefits a lot from cluster jewels.
- Cannot tank big hits. The best defense is mobility and avoiding huge slams.
- Dexterity is needed on gear to meet gem requirements.
- More active playstyle than other summoners. Number of skills to use may overwhelm newer players.
*** FAQs ***
Very brief summary of the build: Get Triad Grip gloves to convert all minion damage to cold. Use Hatred aura and Summon Skitterbots - Bonechill to scale cold damage to big, girthy levels.
For newer players there is a highly detailed description of all build mechanics, without any jargon, in the very next section!
"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.
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. Feedback is welcome and helpful, and the guide has changed a lot based on comments here. BUT, if you have a suggestion please back it up with some evidence as to why your change would be a good idea, and include a Path of Building link to demonstrate why it's an improvement.
"Cast While Channeling / Spellslinger / other clever gearing setups to trigger Animate Weapon?"
I fully researched and considered most 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 if you are bothered by casting it repeatedly. For a fully automated build, look into Chains of Command with a Scion instead.
"Why Cold, instead of Physical with Impale?"
In short, physical has more flexible gem slots but the damage with cold can scale a bit 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. Any advice on Impale would be purely theoretical as I'm doing full elemental conversion myself.
The difference between Cold/Physical is probably small and both will be good. If you want to see an Impale version, look at Ghazzy's content instead. Other elements (Fire/Lightning) will be considerably worse. Please do not revive this debate in the comments, it has been done to death already.
"How do you trigger Elemental Equilibrium?"
By casting Bladefall on the bosses, while having "x to y fire/lightning damage to spells" on some item (see gear section for details). We run Hatred Aura linked to Generosity so that it does not affect us. Make sure no items have added cold damage to spells!
EE is not needed until late game bosses and I recommend against taking it before character level 80-85.
"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.
If you have other questions, please do leave a comment!
3.10 Patch Comments!
Us after 3.10 minion and Necromancer "nerfs"
High Level Analysis of Animate Weapon buffs in 3.10! (not my video)
Other minion builds hammered, Animate Weapon buffed! Skill is looking amazing for 3.10!
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 with high damage, 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).
The problem for Animated Weapon builds prior to 3.10 was that unless monsters dropped enough weapons for you to raise, your animated army could stall out for lack of "recruits". Further, the targeting of weapons on the ground was awkward, requiring very picky selection with your mouse cursor to animate them.
In 3.10 the first issue has been fixed because blade-related spells (Blade Vortex, Ethereal Knives, and Bladefall) now leave behind lingering knives to animate at will. The second part has also been simplified with buffs to cast speed and a reduced mana cost, making the skill much more pleasant to play.
We now have an easy two-skill combination - cast a blade skill (realistically Bladefall because it creates the most knives) and then animate those knives to fight for us. As an added benefit we can apply curses and debuffs to monsters with hits from Bladefall, making our minions more effective.
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 (created by Bladefall) the process is slightly different. All summoned 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.
The plan is very simple: keep up as many Animate Weapon minions as possible, buff their damage, and we're along for the ride as they kill everything in the game! The rest of this guide is about how to accomplish that.
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 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, and Spell, Animate Weapon can also be supported with Melee Attack and Physical tags.
There are other support gems that just have the tag "Support" and can attach to almost anything. Read the text on a support gem and it will describe any special cases and what it can or cannot apply to. GGG's wording tends to be VERY literal.
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 but eventually, we want to convert all that damage to cold.
*** Why Convert Damage to Cold? ***
There are three benefits to converting all damage to one element.
First, it lets our minion benefit from more sources of increased damage. If we convert all minion physical damage to cold, any item that says "minions have % increased physical damage" or "minions have % increased cold damage" will benefit them equally.
Second, 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.
Third, 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.
One way we do that is with Elemental Equilibrium (EE), a keystone node located between Witch and Templar. With EE, when an enemy is hit with one element (for example, lightning) they get +25 resistance to lightning but -50 resistance to cold and fire. We hit enemies with a small amount of lightning or fire damage so that they have negative cold resistance when attacked by our minions.
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.
The other big multiplier we gain is from linking the Bonechill Support to Summon Skitterbots. Skitterbots have two effects: one is a shocking aura, which at level 20, causes monsters to take 18% more damage. There is also a chilling aura, and with Bonechill, that causes monsters to take 18% more cold damage. Together this causes 36% more damage to the unlucky boss which is affected by both our shock and chill at once.
Incidentally, cold damage has some defensive benefits by chilling enemies so they hit us less often, and freezing and shattering corpses to avoid nasty on-death effects. But mostly we're in it for the big, meaty damage increases.
To enjoy playing Animate Weapon, a custom loot filter is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED! This reduces the number of times casting Bladefall, as you can animate weapons that drop in a zone.
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 strongly 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 of them yourself with Bladefall.
You can view filters in my profile and "follow" them, and should get automatic updates as I make changes.
To tweak my pre-made filters:
- Leveling Version (should be good up until red maps)
- Very Lategame Version (will filter out lots of stuff you might still want to see early on)
After you load the filter you should be able to see what I've changed and make your own adjustments. Please don't ask me for tech support on these, if you don't like the various options just make your own.
To make your own custom filter which includes weapons to animate:
1. Go to http://filterblade.xyz/.
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.
4. Pick the correct option (Normal, Spirit Guards if you use that jewel, Cloak of Tawm’r Isley if you use that item) and click Show.
Make any other changes you want to customize your loot filter, then download, put it in the correct folder and load it in Path of Exile, or sync it to your profile.
This tree is very flexible and prioritizes life because damage is not a problem. Either take more HP nodes in Marauder or go deep on cluster jewels as you level.
Alternate (Not Recommended) Tree: More DPS, Lower HP
Gains an extra Spectre and a little more damage at expense of less life.
Taking Indomitable Army nodes for minion survival in red maps. Minion leech gained from cluster jewels.
*** Path of Building ***
These are snapshots of my actual character in the league.
Level 93: https://pastebin.com/PQjQq7nb 9.7M Shaper DPS
Level 88: https://pastebin.com/JKpJsvs9 4.7M Shaper DPS
Level 85: https://pastebin.com/i61hEgrH 1.9M Shaper DPS
You MUST have the Forked version of Path of Building installed or DPS calculations will make no sense! Not sure what that is? Read below.
Installing Path of Building
The program is created by Openarl, and can be downloaded here:
You will also need LocalIdentity’s fork version, which more accurately calculates DPS for a variety of skills, as well as adding 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 See 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
Adds "x" to "y" physical damage
5. To know what to enter for x and y, navigate to the Skills tab, highlight your Animate Weapon skill. You'll see a line which reads
Animated Lingering Blades deal x to y Added Attack Physical Damage
and enter those figures for your custom Glass Shank.
6. Change your active equipment set back to Default, for the gear you're actually using
7. On the left side of the screen where you see Main Skill, 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)
Done! You should now see an accurate estimate of your minion's DPS. Make sure all the other configs are right then go brag on the forums about how much damage you do.
Explanation of Configuration settings
- Enemy hit by lightning damage (added by some piece of gear) for Elemental Equilibrium.
- Minions have power/frenzy charges from Raised Spectres on Chieftains in A2/A6
- Shock effect: 36% accounts for Skitterbots 18% shock, plus the stacked effect of Bonechill causing increased cold damage (another 18%)
- Enemies given -10 cold resistance from Elemental Army
(Buffs from Animate Guardian equipment not included.)
1. Mindless Aggression - boosts minion damage and movement speed to kill stuff faster.
2. Mistress of Sacrifice - increased 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 - get this before killing Kitava in A10. The resistance boost means that the final resist penalty will not require a big gear change-up.
4. Unnatural Strength - +2 Minion Gem levels from Eternal Lab so our minions HP and damage continues scaling nicely into the endgame.
You can actually get comparable DPS with a Guardian ascendancy - at least, with numbers on paper. The main reason to play Necro is the Mistress of Sacrifice node:
- 30% Increased Skill Effect Duration; 30% Increased Minion Duration
- Your Offerings also Affect You, with 25% 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.
Even more importantly, the ability to benefit from Flesh Offering, which increases movement speed, attack speed, and cast speed makes everything play much smoother. It's like having Onslaught all the time, except you can still stack real Onslaught on top of it! Casting minions quickly and having them reach enemies faster further improves their effective duration, and in turn, clear speed.
Alternately, if defense is the priority, Spirit Offering and Bone Offering are large boosts to Chaos Resist and Block Chance, respectively. It's an incredible amount of flexibility for very little investment.
Guardian also does not have any boosts to minion life, which Necro gets incidentally with +gem levels for minions, as well as the Bone Armor buff if you take those nodes. You will have to invest harder with Guardian to keep your Animated Guardian (ironically) alive. The fact that Necromancer also gets more minion damage and move speed through other powerful nodes like Mindless Aggression is just icing on the cake.
Scion is also in theory viable, but it will have considerably lower damage. The main reason to choose Scion would be for the Pathfinder flask nodes for some specialized, alternate build (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 either Gruthkul (more phys reduction) or Shakari (poison immunity when upgraded). Optional: switch to Ryslatha for going through Labyrinth.
In 3.10 we got cluster jewels to customize the passive tree. Using them is essential for later levels!
Understanding how cluster jewels work: there will be a number of "blah" passives with some effect like 10% increased minion damage, and then the notables we really want. Try to get a cluster jewel with the minimum number of passives on it - for large, the minimum to get 3 notables will be 8 passives, and on a medium it will be 4 or 5.
With a large cluster jewel that has 8 passives, you can spend 7 points for 3 excellent notables plus a jewel socket to either place another cluster into, or a regular jewel.
Generally the large jewel will give you minion damage notables, and a medium will give minion survival notables or aura buffs. Small cluster jewels can give HP nodes, but these are often inefficient unless you've taken every other HP node available.
- Vengeful Commander: Hatred/Anger/Wrath have 30% increased Aura Effect. Very good for DPS! The small passives on this are mediocre so get it on a medium cluster jewel.
- Renewal: Minions Regenerate 1% of Life per second; Minions have 10% chance to deal Double Damage while they are on Full Life. Extremely high potential DPS boost, depends how hard it is to keep them on full life. Take leech nodes
- Call to the Slaughter: Minions deal 15% increased Damage; Minions created Recently have 10% increased Attack and Cast Speed; Minions created Recently have 30% increased Movement Speed. Better for SRS than this build, but decent.
- Feasting Fiends: Minions have 10% increased maximum Life; Minions deal 10% increased Damage; Minions Leech 0.4% of Damage as Life. Probably easier ways to get minion life leech
- Dread March: Minions have 10% increased maximum Life; Minions have 10% increased Movement Speed; Minions have 10% additional Physical Damage Reduction; Minions have +10% to Chaos Resistance. Excellent for minion survivability if needed.
- Bodyguards: Minions have 10% increased maximum Life; Minions have 10% chance to Knock Enemies Back on Hit with Attacks. Potentially very good for defense, don't underrate knockback for safety
- Blessed Rebirth: Minions have 20% increased maximum Life; Minions created Recently cannot be Damaged. Good against bosses with large AOE hits that stall our momentum
- Replenishing Presence: 8% increased effect of Non-Curse Auras from your Skills; Auras from your Skills grant 0.2% of Life Regenerated per second to you and Allies Only if running extra auras
- Precise Commander: You and nearby Allies have 50% increased Critical Strike Chance; You and nearby Allies have +15% to Critical Strike Multiplier. Only worthwhile if scaling crit other places too.
From a fresh character in a new league up to the end game. Click Here for a walkthrough using POE Leveling Planner Tool for this build, or just follow along with my comments for each act below.
Video: helpful vendor recipes and allocating your passive tree.
A custom loot filter that shows normal weapon drops is highly recommended! Important playstyle tip: don't try to summon all your weapons at the start of a zone and wait for them to expire. Instead, summon a few, and then animate the stuff that drops. You will be constantly at maximum stacks and never have to stop and resummon.
Acts 1 to 2
- several 3-linked items with G B B colors.
- 2x one-handed weapons with 3 sockets each (used in off-hand weapon swap to level gems)
- any rarity of Bone Spirit Shield, to be used for a vendor recipe.
- Boots with Movement Speed (check vendors), and a Jade Amulet to meet dexterity requirements.
- Sell unidentified magic items for Transmute shards (needed to buy skill gems).
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 Summon Phantasm Support, link to Ethereal Knives. Can buy Spell Cascade (won't need this right away).
After Brutus, take Flame Dash, replace Frostblink. Buy Added Lightning, Minion Damage, and Clarity aura.
Before Merveil, get Flesh Offering.
Animate Weapon - Minion Damage - Added Lightning
Ethereal Knives - Phantasms - (Arcane Surge)
You can also link in Melee Splash at any time if damage feels good, to clear faster.
Act 2. Intruders in Black: take Desecrate.
The Weaver: take Deathmark, buy Faster Casting and Melee Physical Damage.
If dexterity is an issue, pathing into the Precision node by Templar can make leveling much smoother with added move speed and cast rate.
Passive Tree: End of Act 2
Acts 3 to 5
- get a 4-linked helmet with 1 green socket, 1-2 blue and 1-2 red (check vendors).
- Recipe: magic helmet + Orb of Alteration + Life Flask of Animation = +1 Minion Gems.
- (Bone Spirit Shield + Life Flask + Orb of Transmutation = Flask of Animation)
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. Link Bladefall to Spell Cascade and Faster Casting. Keep Bladefall at level 1 to keep mana cost and req's down.
Fixture of Fate: take Feeding Frenzy (optional).
Act 4. Pick Summon Carrion Golem after opening the mines and start using it. After Kaom and Daresso, you can take Multistrike.
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 can include Minion Damage, Melee Phys, Multistrike, Deathmark, even Added Lightning or Added Cold (depending on colors in your gear). Add Melee Splash if desired for clear;
- Bladefall - Faster Casting - Spell Cascade;
- Carrion Golem - Feeding Frenzy;
- Auras: Hatred and Clarity;
- 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 or use: Summon Skitterbots, Animate Guardian, Generosity, Elemental Army, Elemental Damage with Attacks, Multistrike, Hypothermia and any others you might have skipped earlier.
If playing in hardcore, set up Cast When Damage Taken - Steelskin links here.
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.
Acts 7 to 8. Item Goals: acquire defensive utility flasks.
Silver Locket: take the Basalt or Granite Flask, whichever you have not yet found.
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 a Bubbling/Seething prefix onto it with Alteration Orbs, then use Einhar's Menagerie to craft "...of Staunching" 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
Note the small re-spec, changing the pathing out of the witch start and around the center. This is optional but slightly more efficient. I suggest taking that respec right around the time you reach "Righteous Army" on the tree to fill out that wheel to the left of Templar.
Common Issues in Early Maps
Going into maps you'll be about Level 66-70. You won't have the "trigger socketed spells..." craft unlocked from Jun yet, and your resistances might be bad. However, what you should have is a 4-link helmet with +1 minion gems and some decent flasks.
Your gems should be:
and Bladefall - Faster Casting (Optional: Spell Cascade or Curse on Hit - Elemental Weakness/Frostbite).
Main damage links:
Animate Weapon - Minion Damage - Multistrike - Added Cold. Start using Elemental Damage with Attacks when you get Triad Grip. Switch Melee Splash instead of Multistrike for general map clear.
These are boosted by: Carrion Golem - Feeding Frenzy;
Hatred - Generosity and Skitterbots;
Flesh Offering for clear speed, and a curse for bosses. Other gems will be used eventually but that's all you really need.
"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.
Dream Fragments is a useful ring that can fix mana problems in a pinch.
"My Minions die a Lot!"
Early on you can trade for a Skullhead helmet and it will keep both you and your minions alive.
Minion leech on the tree or a jewel is the best way to sustain their HP. Unfortunately against Delirium mobs even this is rather dicey, and it may be necessary to back off and resummon occasionally for very difficult encounters.
"Animate Weapon AI is crap!"
Yeah kinda. The main problem is they're slow. A quality gem would help of course, but if you're league starting with it, you can link Feeding Frenzy to them and it will help. Heavily prioritize getting minion speed on gear, as this makes them much more aggressive - you can easily and cheaply craft that onto rings.
"My Damage is Low!" (No one has ever said this, actually)
Trade for a Sidhebreath amulet early on.
Summon spectres that buff your minions with frenzy/power charges. I use the A2 Stygian Silverback (Frenzy) and Host Chieftain in A6 Riverlands (Power changes). No joke, a huge part of DPS comes from frenzy/power charges. When linked with Blood Magic, these guys will keep the team buffed. In a +2 Minion helm, they will stay alive.
You can pick out areas of the Atlas where Convoking Wands and Bone Helmets are able to drop (a guide to these locations). Farm these maps in a targeted way to find upgrades, and use Essences you've picked up in the campaign to craft useful stats onto them.
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. Easiest method is to trade for a Jeweler's Touch prophecy, which typically go for ~25c at the start of a league. If playing SSF, you can farm Flora's Gift cards as a temporary measure, and use a staff instead for now. Save your Jewelers and Fuses!
- Triad Grip Gloves, socket color 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 selling 6-socket items. At this point, link Bonechill to Skitterbots if you haven't already.
- method to trigger Elemental Equilibrium (see Gear section below for options) and only then, take the EE node.
- 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...)
- Acquire some method to curse enemies with Elemental Weakness. Most accessible is with corrupted gloves on Animate Guardian. Get enough other decent gear for the Guardian so it won't die easily (see that section in Advanced).
- 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!
*** Final Gem Links ***
We're using Hatred to double-dip off added physical damage from Jewels or other gear, and Summon Skitterbots linked to Bonechill provides an additional "more" damage multiplier to cold. Supports which give us more melee physical, more cold, or more minion damage will all be effective.
Here are the gem links used to take advantage of that in the endgame.
Cold Conversion - Animate Weapon Supports (5L/6L)
Damage supports in order of efficiency:
- Added Cold Damage
- Minion Damage
- Multistrike - switch this out if mana sustain is an issue
- Elemental Damage with Attacks - must have Triad Grip Gloves on first
- Clear speed: Melee Splash
And choose one of these:
- Elemental Focus - great damage but can't freeze/shatter corpses
- Hypothermia - recommended to use for defensive boost of freeze.
Other supports that are less good:
- Ruthless - every third hit deals extra, much less consistent- especially with Multistrike
- Deathmark - good for bosses but needs a hotkey
- Melee Physical Damage - least raw DPS
For bosses, swap out Melee Splash for either Multistrike, EDWA, or Ruthless.
Use Awakened supports when you have access to them.
(To accurately estimate cold DPS in Path of Building, set Shock Effect to 36% from Skitterbots, for the stacked effect of Shock and Bonechill.)
Cold Conversion - Utility Skills
Gloves: Bladefall, Desecrate, Dash - Second Wind (or Portal, or Vaal Haste, or Precision Level 1).
Must fill those 4 green sockets in Triad Grip. Don't level these dex gems all the way, keep requirements under 110 Dex to avoid gearing issues. (How to get 4 green sockets into Triad Grip).
Boots: Hatred - Generosity and Skitterbots - Bonechill.
Helmet: Raise Spectre - Animate Guardian - Blood Magic - Elemental Army.
Elemental Army will cause our utility minions to apply Exposure to Cold on hit, and also keep them alive. For spectres we summon the Host/Carnage Chieftains from Acts 2 and 6 to apply Power/Frenzy charges to our minions. Blood Magic causes them to spam this buff more regularly. Get +2 Minion Gems on Helmet so these stay alive better (see Gear section).
Weapon: Summon Carrion Golem - Feeding Frenzy and Flesh Offering. (Has crafted "Trigger Socketed Spells when using a Skill")
The Golem will die a lot so we just resummon it automatically. Its job is to apply the Feeding Frenzy buff by hitting enemies. Flesh Offering should be active all the time.
Shield: Cast When Damage Taken (Level 13) - Steelskin (Level 17) and Convocation (Level 16+).
The guard skill gives us some protection against large damage spikes, and benefits nicely from all our increased duration. I prefer to have it trigger after losing between half and a third of HP, so the specific level is a matter of preference. Convocation can be good to cast by hand, in which case unlink it with CWDT.
Optional: unset ring to run Clarity or other desired utility skill. With Commander of Darkness this gives a small cast/attack speed boost, so the extra aura is a slight DPS improvement.. if the mana allows it.
To truly min-max the damage we could also try to apply Frost Bomb exposure (-25 Resistance) rather than exposure from Elemental Army (-10 Resistance). This also requires pathing to Avatar of Fire to not mess up EE. It's up to you to decide if your clicking fingers are up to the task with an extra hotkey for that DPS boost.
This setup will manually cast:
- Animate Weapon
Last edited by MoLoK13 on Mar 21, 2020, 7:04:00 PM
Last bumped on Apr 1, 2020, 11:52:11 AM
on Feb 28, 2020, 3:35:36 PM
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 mildly useful, and Evasion is worthless.
All rare items should have at minimum +50 Maximum Life, or hopefully better (80+), in order to be considered really good.
One item must have "#-# added fire/lightning damage to spells" in order to trigger Elemental Equilibrium using Bladefall. This can be found on a Wand, Shaped Ring, Boots enchant, or Hypnotic Eye Jewel. You can also unlock a craft from Jun to add lightning and fire damage to ring.
Also, we must find approximately 70 Dexterity from gear to reach gem requirements. Best sources for Dexterity are Rings, Amulet, Boots, or Jewels.
As for what to look at in specific item slots, read on!
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.
For a cold conversion, here's a 90 second guide: how to get 4 green sockets into Triad Grip.
Late-game: gloves corrupted to apply a curse or +% increased maximum life.
A Tabula Rasa can go far, but I personally prefer to use a 5-link with actual stats instead.
Keep in mind that we want at least 3 Red and 1 Green sockets in our eventual chest armor, so picking a base without any Armor on it may make getting the desired colors costly. Easiest will be a Strength/Intelligence or Strength/Dexterity chest armor.
Defense: Bloodbond will help in keeping both you and your minions alive with extra HP. Belly of the Beast serves the same role and is top-tier for Hardcore.
Convenience: Cloak of Tawm'r Isley. Built-in life leech support makes your minions survive a bit better, and blind improves defenses immensely. 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.
Mana Issues: The Covenant is a solid option, allowing you to cast using life instead of mana, as well as a built-in Added Chaos Damage support. Not a high demand item so it can be very cheap, but getting Red sockets will be painful.
Early DPS: Skin of the Loyal. Can be found early in a league if lucky with socket colors.
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.
High DPS: Vis Mortis has direct and significant buffs to minion damage, with a tradeoff of reduced minion life (and weaker defensive stats). May not want to run this with an expensive Animated Guardian. Bad for socket colors.
Maximum DPS: Skin of the Loyal double corrupted for additional gem levels. These are most commonly obtained from The Price of Loyalty divination cards, however getting it in the appropriate socket colors and with good corruptions will be expensive.
Extra Auras: Victario's Influence will allow you to run additional auras and might get the theoretical highest possible DPS on the skill. Tradeoff is you must socket main skill into a 6L weapon instead of using wand/shield. Not covering that method in this guide but it is an option.
Skullhead is cheap and has nice defensive boosts. Annoying to get blue sockets in it but can serve through the early game.
Hale Negator offers an abyssal jewel slot, which can improve DPS, and also has significant life/ES recovery when you take a big hit. If you are going deep on Abyssal Jewels this can be a viable defensive choice.
The Devouring Diadem opens up the option to use an extra aura, and then take Mind Over Matter for defenses. This changes up the build significantly but is definitely viable. Results in a higher DPS/lower survivability character so look to offset that in other areas if you use this item.
The 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.
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 https://poedb.tw/us/mod.php to see what fossils influence the mods you can get.
- increased duration or increased damage for Animate Weapon.
- Flesh Offering grants 21% increased Attack Speed.
- 150% increased Effect of the Buff granted by your Carrion Golems.
Weapon and Shield
Weapon: best possible will be a rare Convoking Wand with minion damage, +minion gem levels, minion movement speed, minion attack speed, etc. Also desirable is “adds # fire/lightning damage to spells” to trigger Elemental Equilibrium.
The wand must have an open suffix to craft “trigger socketed spells when you use a skill.”
For mid-game uniques: Earendel's Embrace, Clayshaper (high strength requirement), or Severed in Sleep.
The Cold Iron Point dagger would be tempting to use, HOWEVER with it on you cannot do elemental damage to trigger EE!
Shield: several good unique options here.
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.
The Surrender can be paired with a slightly adjusted tree, and use of the Bone Offering skill, to get max block. A very powerful defensive setup.
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.
Rare Shield: shaped/influenced item with "recover #% of life on block" to improve survival chances, combined with block nodes.
Look for a good rare with movement speed, life, and resistances - in that order. Increased Cooldown Recovery Speed is moderately useful if you can get it (Shaper/Crusader influence). Tailwind, Cannot be Frozen are very nice depending on your budget.
Unique Boots: Saqawal's Talons might be chosen if using Aspect of the Avian, and have not found it on a jewelry item. The Stampede is viable to get an extra anoint and more DPS, but it’s defensively quite poor.
The Labyrinth enchant "Adds # to # Lightning Damage if you haven't Killed Recently" is a good way to proc Elemental Equilibrium. Life and mana regeneration are other useful enchants to have, or "movement speed if haven't been hit."
Jewelry – Ring, Amulet, Belt
Attributes to look for on Jewelry items:
- Maximum life
- Resistances (elemental and chaos)
- Maximum mana, mana regeneration rate, and intelligence (helps sustain casting spells).
- For 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.
In 3.10, String of Servitude is now available double-corrupted. Added 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. A shaped ring with “Adds # lightning damage to spells and attacks” can be used to trigger Elemental Equilibrium.
Amulet: Eventual goal is to get a rare Hunter-influenced amulet with +level to Dexterity or Intelligence Gems, and craft on “Minions have % increased movement speed.” Amulets are a great spot to get some needed dexterity for gem requirements.
Low Budget Amulet: Sidhebreath for DPS. For cheap and purely defensive, consider Bloodgrip (prevents bleed), or Winterheart (prevents chill).
- Ravenous Horde is best DPS and clear speed. (Verdant - Opalescent - Opalescent).
- Grave Intentions is cheap and good for minion survival (Sepia - Violet - Violet).
- As a more defensive choice, Crystal Skin for resists and ailment avoidance (Sepia - Black - 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.
- # Increased Maximum Life
- Minions deal (15–17) to (22–26) additional Physical Damage
- Minions deal # to # additional Cold Damage.
- Minions deal 15-20% increased Damage if you've used a Minion Skill Recently
- Minions have #% increased Attack Speed / Cast Speed (weaker)
- 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)
On at least one jewel:
- Minions have (6–8)% chance to Taunt on Hit with Attacks.
- Minions have (5–6)% chance to Blind on Hit with Attacks.
- Minions Leech (0.3-0.5)% of Damage as Life (Optional, but helpful).
Getting the most damage from jewels:
Whether the "increased" 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 more desired because Hatred will double-dip from it, but added cold jewels will be cheaper.
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 socket southwest of the Scion life wheel. Quickening Covenant is okay but not as good.
Spirit Guards allows animating ranged weapons, but the only convenient spot to put it is south of the Scion starting location near the resistance nodes.
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 and not minions so there are practically no offensive benefits to be gained here. % Mana gained as extra ES with Clarity (expensive!) is very strong defensively.
Timeless Jewel: see the advanced gearing section, below.
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 2-3 defensive utility flasks:
- Stibnite Flask (blinds nearby enemies- good before having "blind on hit" jewel for minions)
- Granite Flask of Iron Skin and/or Basalt Flask (armor and physical damage reduction)
- Quartz Flask (dodge and phasing - good to avoid being cornered by mobs and prevent desync, especially in Delve).
On defensive utility flasks, I personally always like to have at least the following suffixes available:
- Curse Immunity (Warding)
- Freeze and Chill Immunity (Heat)
And depending on the zone or boss, switch in immunity to Poison, Shock, or Ignite. Also, have an Enduring Eternal Mana Flask available for no regen maps.
Short Guide to Crafting Flasks
First step before crafting, for all flasks: increase quality to 20% with Glassblowers Baubles if they are available. Increased duration means less button pressing means less carpal tunnel!
I would personally not bother with crafting a flask unless it has quality first, as the difference between spending 4 Glassblowers (normal flask) vs. 10 (magic flask) to upgrade is huge. If you need a particular type of flask and only have Magic versions of it, I recommend scouring and qualitying it before crafting.
Life Flask: spam Alteration Orbs until hitting Seething/Bubbling Prefix and no suffix, and then beast-craft on "of Staunching." (Go to Einhar's Menagerie, and select the option Add Suffix to a Flask in the arena).
Utility Flask: beast-craft on the desired suffix (immunity to "X") first, and then use an Orb of Augmentation to add a random prefix.
Nearly all prefixes are good for utility flasks except for Surgeon's (we don't crit much, so no benefit) and Alchemist's (reduced duration). Flagellant's and Avenger's are also relatively weak as we prefer not to get hit so ideally they won't be triggering. The most desired rolls for utility are Increased Duration, Reduced Charges Used, or More Charge Recovery.
Only a few Unique Flasks are worth considering. Rumi's Concoction is excellent defensively. Blood of the Karui becomes good if you have over 6000+ HP, as instant flasks alone start to have little impact. Lastly, Bottled Faith is the only flask good for DPS, but it's expensive!
Niche uses to explore: Doedre's Elixir to trigger CWDT setups. Forbidden Taste in gear that manipulates how chaos damage is taken. With no armor or overcapped cold resistance, Taste of Hate can be a slightly better Basalt Flask.
Automated Casting Mechanics
There are lots of ways to trigger spells using specialized gear or gem setups in order to make gameplay smoother. Early on in looking at the skill, everyone wanted to automate it as much as possible. After playing the skill with no automation, I personally found it works fine. However, to reduce the amount of buttons to press, there are a few ways.
After looking at all the options I think two stand out as the best.
Be aware that if you trigger Bladefall, only half as many lingering blades are created compared to casting it yourself!
1. Craft on a Weapon
Unveil weapons with Jun to unlock a craft, “cast triggered spells whenever you use a skill”, and then apply that to a wand (this requires an open suffix mod). Then socket whichever spells you wish to automate such as Flesh Offering and a golem, and it will cycle through casting all of them.
This triggered effect has a cooldown of 4 seconds, and has minimal cost in terms of gearing and gem slots.
2. Craft on a Helmet
Also from Jun, craft "Trigger socketed spells when you Focus" onto a helmet. "Focus" requires a hotkey, can be activated instantly, and has an 8 second cooldown.
The advantage of Focus-Helmet method compared to Weapon-Trigger is you can socket an additional gem, allowing you to trigger more spells at once (for example, Desecrate - Flesh Offering - Bladefall - Spell Cascade Support).
The downside of Focus is the longer cooldown, requirement to use it on a hotkey, and that we would rather have minions socketed into the helmet (rather than spells) to potentially benefit from added gem levels or other minion supports we could get from an Elder Influenced Helmet.
This method is probably only preferred if you are using only unique weapons, or for some other reason can't craft anything onto a weapon.
In the interest of completeness, here are the other methods I researched for automating various skills. To avoid confusion: none of these later methods are recommended!
Other Automation Methods
Other Ways to Automate Bladefall
1) Kitava’s Thirst Helmet with Bladefall (and any other desired spells) socketed into it, and get your cost of Animate Weapon to over 100 mana. You would probably only choose this option if it were not possible to craft onto your weapon, as it requires giving up your helmet slot for a distinctly inferior piece of gear.
2) Cast When Damage Taken loops. Bladefall can be at level 1 without impacting its effectiveness in generating knives. There are several ways you could damage yourself to trigger it (must cause 528 damage to yourself for this to work, if CWDT is level 1, and don't forget about armor), easiest being Scold’s Bridle. But, this takes up your helmet slot and precludes getting a good enchant unless you are mega-rich / lucky.
3) Some sort of Cast on Crit or Cast While Channeling setup, likely powered by Cyclone.
Other Ways to Automate Animate Weapon
Animate Weapon has a very long duration so I don't know why someone would bother with this. But if you wanted to...
1) Craft “Trigger socketed spells…” onto a 6-linked weapon, which also houses your Animate Weapon gem setup.
The main downside of this is that (a) getting a good, rare, 6-linked minion staff with an open suffix is hard, so you probably lose some DPS and defense compared to a 1-handed option and (b) there is a 4 second cooldown between triggers of your Animate Weapon gem. This will make it very slow to build your army.
You can get “Reduced Cooldown Duration” on influenced Belts and Boots and will almost certainly want that if you go this direction. The advantage of this is you can put a Curse on Hit attached to your Bladefall. (I would call this the “rich and lazy” setup.)
These next methods all involve some additional gem links being attached to your Animate Weapon and so there is a tradeoff of lower DPS for more convenience.
2) Some Channeling Skill + Cast While Channeling + Animate Weapon. This severely reduces DPS.
3) Cast When Stunned + Some self-damage mechanism + Valyrium ring + no Energy Shield on gear. Valyrium causes your stun threshold to be based on ES, so even small amounts of damage can stun you and trigger your Animate Weapon.
This costs only a single gem link, however it also requires several other pieces of sub-optimal (self-damaging gear) to work, and you’ll also want to itemize heavily for Stun Recovery – because you’re getting stunned all the time.
Full Automation Builds for Max Laziness
These methods involve very specialized gearing choices and big sacrifices in raw damage, convenience, and/or ability to do all content. I won’t claim to have tested all of them (yet).
1) Use the Cast While Channeling method above for Bladefall, and the Cast When Stunned method to trigger Animate Weapon. Cyclone will not work for this, as it prevents you from being stunned.
2) Dual-wield two Poet’s Pens; one for Bladefall, the other for Animate Weapon. This gives up a lot of damage due to highly limited gem links (only 2 damage supports) as well as any minion-boosting weapons you would use. Advantage is that you can link something like a Curse on Hit to your chosen attack skill.
3) Use one Poet’s Pen to trigger Bladefall, and have Barrage + Cast on Crit + Animate Weapon in your six-link. The downside is that it’s very difficult to gear and create a skill tree which will get a respectable number of crits to trigger with this method. However, it gives you an additional damage support compared to #2.
3a) Poet's Pen - Bladefall; Spellslinger Support in 6L with Animate Weapon. I think this is the easiest possible way to trigger both spells at once with some attack skill, which also can be linked to a Curse on Hit. Does reserve a hefty portion of mana due to all the supports, so some lost DPS from less auras.
4) Null’s Inclination bow socketed with Animate Weapon links, and Asenath’s Chant socketed with Bladefall (and any other desired gems).
The downside is that kills are required to cause Animate Weapon to trigger, so you cannot do all content (particularly: bosses in arenas without monsters leading up to it, delve, etc.) You can use Writhing Jar flasks or Vaal Breach to help, but it’s an incomplete solution.
5) Use Jorrhast's Blacksteel to trigger Animate Weapon on kill, wear Speaker’s Wreath so that your minions cannot kill, get a small source of poison, and have Scorching Ray + Cast While Channeling + Bladefall to get kills and generate weapons.
There is a guide from Woolfio for this build in 3.0, which you can use with minor modifications. See his video. Downside: cannot do all content because kills are needed to trigger Animate Weapon.
6) Play with Chains of Command. Tenpuraudon's guide here. Very fast for mapping, but loses much DPS from not having Spectres and Carrion Golem.
Sample Endgame Gear
Uses a craft on one of the rings for added fire/lightning damage in order to trigger EE with Bladefall on bosses.
Applying Curses with Gear
Cursing bosses will improve damage. There are a few ways to do that.
- Self-cast a curse, manually. Effective, but requires an extra hotkey.
- Link Bladefall - Curse on Hit - Curse. Easiest solution, and gives the most powerful curse effect, but there aren't enough gem slots available to do this in the final setup.
- 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.
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.
Boots: Victario’s Flight to make the whole team move faster, or Rainbowstride for resists. Alternately, % life regen on rare boots.
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.
- 2H: Dying Breath staff (some damage, cheap), or Kingmaker for culling strike, crit multi, rarity and Fortify (very strong, expensive).
- 1H: Singularity (hinder), or Sign of the Sin Eater (takes ailments)
- Shield: The Oak (massive regen) or Victario’s Charity (frenzy charges- not necessary with Chieftain spectres).
Maximum Survivability: a chest armor with "% of Life gained as Energy Shield" with Mask of the Stitched Demon grants huge life regeneration to keep our guy alive.
Recommended to unsummon the guardian in Hall of Grandmasters, while fighting the Acid Caverns boss, or against Al-Hezmin (big chaos damage hits - we can max our Guardian's elemental resists but it will be weak to chaos).
Adjusting to Map Mods
This build can do every map mod, but there are a few which require some preparation or are just easier to re-roll.
- Elemental Reflect. Remove the Triad Grip gloves, turn off the Hatred aura, equip Pride aura instead. Lower DPS but should be doable. Additional monster Phys Reduction with this could be very slow, however.
- Cannot Regenerate Life/mana/ES. Have an Enduring Mana Flask ready to swap in. This mod is very annoying regardless.
- Temporal Chains. I like to have "of Warding" on my Quicksilver Flask. Extremely annoying if map has reduced flask charges. Big brain solution: Timetwist ring.
Mods that are dangerous:
- Monsters skills Chain (bad unless you have Lunaris pantheon fully unlocked)
- Multiple "% extra damage as <element>", especially with -% maximum resists or extra damage/speed.
- Bloodlines: Corrupting Blood could surprise you on hitting a pack with Bladefall.
- Chilled Ground. I hate this mod as much as Temporal Chains. Get a Heat flask with very long duration.
Dangerous combos, but less obvious:
- Inhabited by Goatmen + Increased Monster Speed.
- Inhabited by Lunaris Fanatics + Extra Projectiles.
- Cultists of Kitava + Increased Crits.
- Rogue Exiles + Tormented Spirits.
- Inhabited by Sea Witches + Monsters from Beyond (this can be either amazing or terrifying).
Some map bosses with extra speed or extra AOE can become extremely difficult to fight and are best skipped. Acid Caverns boss is very good at killing Animated Guardians.
This build should be more flexible than most in the mods it can do. Just slow down a bit in the dangerous ones.
Specialized Defensive Setups
As we get deeper into the game - especially with new league content - it gets increasingly deadly. These are brainstormed ideas for staying alive in the super-late grind.
Once you have a cool/tanky/unique setup, let me know and maybe I will showcase it here! No promises as to how frequently I update that.
Some general ideas:
1. Devouring Diadem and Mind over Matter.
Pros: allow running an additional aura (such as Haste) and the standard benefits of EB/MoM for easier mana sustain for casting.
- Cons: lose potential good rolls on helmet such as extra maximum life. Getting proper ratio of life:ES requires care when gearing. Big hits or DoT can leave you unable to cast spells. Works better for the fire conversion approach because of limited # of aura gem slots in the helmet.
2. Soul of Steel and armor stacking. Take more armor nodes near the Templar and Marauder areas, perhaps a timeless Jewel (Militant Faith, Avarius) to convert mana into more armor.
- Cons: won't be effective against super-large hits and DoT.
3. Max Block. Use Bone Offering, Rumi's Concoction, and The Surrender to block many incoming hits and also recover life.
- Cons: cannot use Flesh Offering at the same time, which hurts clear speed.
3a. Timeless Jewel: Glancing Blows keystone and The Surrender. Similar concept, lower investment than #3.
- Cons: damage still goes through, and risk of stunlock.
4. CI or low life, mana-stacking Guardian.
- Cons: does not benefit from Offerings, expensive to gear, less DPS.
5. Build around The Queen's Hunger and Leash of Oblation, stack a lot of increased duration.
- Pros: can benefit from Offerings without playing Necro/Scion, perhaps unlocking defensive mechanics from other ascendancies. Also frees up a gem socket from not casting an offering.
- Cons: less damage from the skill tree, probably.
6. Hybrid defense (life/ES) stacking with a Clarity Watcher's Eye, Corrupted Soul from a Doryani Timeless Jewel. Potential for fast recovery from big hits with Hale Negator helmet and a lot of abyssal jewels.
Thank you for reading this far! Check the videos at the top to how the skill plays. If you dive into the comments and want to see discussion starting after 3.10 has gone live, jump to around page 42. Patch notes reveal is around page 13.
Many thanks to all the people who have contributed comments over the past weeks 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 MoLoK13 on Mar 21, 2020, 6:52:51 PM
on Feb 28, 2020, 3:35:51 PM
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?
on Feb 28, 2020, 11:33:05 PM
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)
on Feb 28, 2020, 11:34:38 PM
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."
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.
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!
on Feb 29, 2020, 12:12:33 AM
Another question regarding the knives skill - how will it affect the life of the animated weapons summoned from them?
on Feb 29, 2020, 8:40:14 AM
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.
on Feb 29, 2020, 8:44:52 AM
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.
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 Feb 29, 2020, 9:18:37 AM
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!
on Feb 29, 2020, 11:41:19 AM
good point on elementalist! but it seems like only two ascendencies would be good for animate weapon build (the golem ones)?
on Feb 29, 2020, 11:57:44 AM