[3.18] Odif's Build Guides for Newbies: Skeleton Mage Necro

Hello Exiles!
Have you always wanted to try minions, but did not know where to begin?
Are you relatively new to the game?
Have you struggled in red maps with your previous builds?
Have you not even gotten to maps because you were so confused, or you did not know how to build a character?
Do you just want a league starter that will get you dominating red maps and killing endgame bosses with minimal investment?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then this build is for YOU!

Why did I make this build?

Over the years, with new league content continually added to the game, it has gotten harder and harder for newbies to get deep into endgame, it's all just too overwhelming.

So, I made this build, a simple and cheap build, with lots of details for newbies, that will allow newbies to get deep into endgame.

All my focus is to make this build the best possible build for newbies in the game.

Experienced users can use it also, of course.


This build is a newbie friendly, super low cost, league starter build.
It will get you deep into red maps with just the currency you get on the way.)
It scales with currency.
With further investments, skeleton mages are a top tier build.

It's a minion build, so if you don't like minion builds this is not for you.

Our main damage dealer are Skeleton Mages

We use Zombies as meat shields.

We use Carnage Chieftain Spectres to generate Frenzy Charges for our Skeletons to increase damage.

We use an Animated Guardian to provide buffs.

We use Vaal Summon Skeletons for Bosses and non moving events like Ritual, Blight, and Breach.

Vaal Summon Skeleton is one of the best "I WIN" buttons in the game. It is absurdly strong.

Skeleton Mages inherently do elemental damage. See the section below for more details on them.

We use Elemental Army to lower enemy cold and fire resists by 10%.
We use Elemental Weakness curse to lower it even more. (Has a lesser effect on bosses, and has no effect on hex proof monsters and maps with hex proof mod.)
We use a Minion Offense Master to lower elemental resists by even more.
Later, when we have a lot of currency, we transition to Fleshcrafter body armor, which means we do not need to lower enemy elemental resists. More on that armor later in the guide.

We use Generosity boosted Zealotry aura to boost skeleton damage.

We use Tempest Shield to get more Spell Block and to be immune to shock

We use Determination Aura to have lots of Armor.

We use a Pantheon Power to be immune to Freeze.
We use a combo of Pantheon Power, ring craft, and points on the skill tree to get 100% reduced effect of curses on us, making us effectively curse immune.

We use a Stone Golem to buff our life regen.

For defense we use Bone Offering with Mistress of Sacrifice, And with a good shield can get max attack and spell block with over 100 life gained on block.

How do Skeleton Mages work?

Skeleton mages require a unique jewel, Dead Reckoning. Before you acquire it, you will be using melee skeletons.

When you socket the jewel, Dead Reckoning, into your passive skill tree, instead of summoning melee skeletons, you summon skeleton mages, up to 15.

(This limit only matters on Vaal Summon Skeleton, which at high level summons more than 15 melee skeletons, so only 15 of those get converted to skeleton mages. Vaal Summon Skeleton naturally summons a few skeleton mages, so you will get these plus the 15 converted ones.)

There are 3 types of skeleton mages.
Cold, Fire, and Lightning.
They each do a dart like spell, that hits a single target with the respective type of damage.
It counts as a spell projectile, and can be supported as such.
It is random which of the 3 types are summoned, so usually you get a mix.

In theory skeleton mages can walk around, but they rarely move very far. If they are aware of an enemy, they cast at an enemy.

Can I do this build in SSF?

SSF (Solo Self Found)
You can do this build SSF, if you ALREADY HAVE THE DEAD RECKONING JEWEL.
In 3.13 a player in SSF found a Dead Reckoning jewel, rerolled and followed my old guide and had a great time, did all content.

But the Dead Reckoning jewel has too low a drop rate to try this build in SSF without already having it.

Pros and Cons

Very newbie friendly, lots of details for first time players.
Very good for "stay in place" encounters like, Breach, Blight, Rituals and Ultimatum.
Very Low currency to go deep into red maps.
Scales with currency.
Relaxed minion play style.
Does not need empower.
OK defenses with minions to absorb hits, high block chance (attack and spell), good life pool, good life regen, OK life gained on block.

You have to use melee skeletons until you can get Dead Reckoning jewel. These can be VERY expensive the first week of a league, although they start dropping in price around day 4 or 5 of a league, and soon get down to less than 10 chaos.
Can't do No Regen Maps.
Struggles with elemental reflect maps, unless you get expensive rings. (I did some elemental reflect maps with this build to test it out, you can do them, but its slow, recasting skeletons constantly.)
Minion play style is not for everybody.
At very high wealth investment, other minion builds may do significantly better. (To make it newbie friendly, I compromised a bit on DPS)
(You can always transition, use this build until you are absurdly wealthy, then transition to another build.)

What is Fleshcrafter body armor?

Fleshcrafter is a unique body armor.

It is VERY GOOD for this build.
It is something you transition to LATER, when you have a bunch of exaults saved up.
You can do red maps fine without it, but with it, you can take on all content in the game.

Fleshcrafter sets ALL enemies elemental resists to 0, no matter what, so we dont need to try and lower enemies elemental resists. Instead we focus on buffing our skels crit chance and crit damage.

Note: Fleshcrafter makes it so if you get 50% chaos resist or more on your minions they DIE instantly. In particular it means you cannot use a Chaos Golem (they inherently have over 50%) and you CANNOT put gear on your Animated Guardian that has more than a total of 29% chaos resists. (they have 20% chaos resist inherently.)

PoB link
Maps starter, no Fleshcrafter

High investment, with fleshcrafter.
(there are many varients with fleshcrafter, I went for a high defense version, its VERY tanky.)
PoB link explanation

THe first above link is a snapshot of where my league starter for Archnemesis is at level 93.
It is NOT meant to be the best gear possible.
Other than a nice wand, the rest of the gear is cheap junk.
The second one has investment, uses Fleshcrafter, and is SUPER tanky.

er...What is PoB?

PoB is Path of Building, a third party software, that lets you plan and share builds.
It is completely optional.
There will be browser based skill trees linked below.

If you want PoB, make sure you download the community fork
(google search "path of building community fork")

Ascendancy, Bandits and Pantheon

Necromancer Ascendancy order
Mindless Aggression --> Unnatural Strength --> Commander of Darkness --> Mistress of Sacrifice

Kill All

Major: Soul of the Brine King
(Make sure to Capture Litanius to make you immune to freezing)
Minor: Soul of Gharukan
(Make sure to capture Piety the Emperyon for 30% reduced effect of curses)

Anoint for Amulet

Anoint Deaths Attunement on your amulet, as soon as you have a valuable enough amulet to justify the expense of the anoint. (Costs a clear, crimson and silver oil.)
See the Gear Upgrades section for what to look for in an amulet.

What is Anointing?

Randomly, in maps you can find Cassia, she gives you a mission to clear some corruption from the map. The mission can drop oils, which can be traded. After the first mission you can (and should) invite her to your hideout.
She has the ability to "anoint" an amulet with a Notable from the passive tree, but it costs 3 oils. Some anoints are cheap, some are expensive. Silver is the second most expensive oil, it can cost 30c at the start of a league, so its silly to anoint a 5c amulet with 30+c of oils.

We anoint Death Attunement on our amulet, and save 7 passive skill tree points.

Skill Trees (Including leveling trees)
Browser based, no third party software needed.

poeplanner.com links

15 skill points (mastery is for melee skels)

26 skill points

46 skill points

80 skill points

101 skill points

112 skill points (+4 points for a medium cluster jewel)
(This one has Mage Skel Masteries)

Map Starting, pre Fleshcrafter

Chest (Skeleton Mages)
Colors: 5B/G
Vaal Summon Skeleton linked to Pierce, Spell Echo, Elemental Army, Controlled Destruction, Minion Damage.
(Supports are listed in order of importance, in case you do not yet have a 6l chest.)

Helmet (Spectres and Animated Guardian)
Colors: 3B/R
Raise Spectre and Animated Guardian both linked to Minion Life, Increased Area of Effect.

Colors: 2B/2R (BR linked, and BR unlinked)
Zealotry linked to Generosity and
(Determination and Elemental Weakness NOT linked to Generosity. )

First Weapon
Colors: G/2B
Desecrate (To make corpses to use Bone Offering)
Keep Desecrate at level 1 to save mana.
Bone Offering
Tempest Shield
None need be linked.

Colors: 2B/R
Convocation, Flame Dash, Molten Shell.
Have Molten Shell on left click so it auto casts on movement.

Colors: 3B/R
Raise Zombie and Summon Stone Golem both linked to Feeding Frenzy and Meat Shield.

Base Gear

Required Unique
Dead Reckoning

That is the only unique item needed for this build.

OMG Dead Reckoning is SO expensive this league.
What do I do?


Use Melee Skeletons until you can afford the Dead Reckoning
Melee Skel links in order of importance
Skel/Multistrike/Melee Physical/Ruthless/Brutality/Faster Attacks
Use self cast Vulnerability aura.

Dead Reckonings come down in price as the league progresses.
Save up and you will be able to buy one soon.

Helmet with +2 to minion gems
Even with life and resists, these are crazy cheap, 2-3 chaos early league.
If it has a free prefix, you can benchcraft +1 max skeletons on it.

6l chest
If they are not too expensive, get one with +2 duration gems corruption.
If they are expensive its best to invest your currency elsewhere.

You should get enough chaos for a chest pretty quick, maybe before you hit maps.
You can do white and yellow maps easy with a 4l, which you can find/craft as you go. So don't worry if you don't have a 6l when you start mapping.

After you get your chest, buy a weapon that has "+1 all spell skill gems"
These run 5-30 chaos early league. It seems to vary a lot each league.
Save up to buy this, it makes a huge difference.

If you can afford it, get some minion damage/minion attack speed mods also, this will up the cost, so it's optional. (only available on wands)

Optional benchcraft for weapon, that is a HUGE quality of life increase

A free suffix so you can craft "trigger a socketed spell when you use a skill"
Note: this craft is unlocked via betrayal mechanic, or you can purchase the craft from a trusted crafter.
To find a trusted crafter go to the trade section of the official forums.
Here is the link to a trusted bench crafter that I have used before.
It's a Scourge SC league link, so you will need to find one in the right league for you.

A high armor shield with life gained on block, +% attack block, +max life and resists is best. Get what you can afford. Getting 90+ life on block is the priority, get that if nothing else.

Everything else is rares with life and resists.
You will need dex on at least one item.

Get 20% reduced effect of curses on one ring (its a bench craft)

Chaos resist is very nice, but not necessary. Try and get as much as possible, but its a lower priority than elemental resist capping and life.

It's preferable to get a stygian vice belt, it's a great place to socket in a jewel with minion damage mods on it.

If possible, get gear with armor, the more the better.

What order should I prioritize for getting the above gear?

1) Dead Reckoning unique Jewel (enables Skeleton Mages)

2) 6 link chest
(A Tabula with +2 duration gems corruption is highly recommended, but ONLY if cheap, otherwise defer to later.)

3) +2 minion gems helm with life and resists
Get when you start mapping

4) Shield with life gained on block and if its not too expensive, +% block chance

5) +1 all spell skill gems weapon
Get as soon as you can afford it, after you get above items.
Melee one handers are usually a lot cheaper than wands with that mod.

Remember, in the last few acts and definitely for mapping, you need your elemental resists capped, so buying yellows to do that takes priority over the above list.

The above items, along with yellows that have life and resists is all you need to easily do t15 maps.

There is a section below for what upgrades to this base gear to buy as you gain wealth.

Cluster Jewel

You do NOT need a cluster jewel to make this build work, BUT it helps a LOT.
Eventually you will want a medium cluster jewel, 4-6 size, 4 preferable, a Minion Life cluster jewel with Blessed Rebirth.
Clusters with only this affix are not that expensive.
When you get wealthy, you can replace with one that has BOTH Blessed Rebirth AND Life From Death. (Very Expensive)

When you get Life From Death, you can spec out of the Mastery "minions recover 5% of life on minion death" and replace with "minions leech 1% of damage as life".


This build uses high block, both attack and spell, OK life gain on block, a good life pool, high life regen and decent armor, and defensive flasks.

Block Explained:
Bone Offering effects you at 50% effectiveness only AFTER you get Mistress of Sacrifice. (Merciless Lab)\
We have a Mastery that makes this 70%.
Bone offering benefits both from ascendancy +2 minion gem levels, and from +1 gem levels on wands.
A level 20 gem, thus goes to level 23, which is enough to get 36% attack and spell block on minions, and 26% attack and spell block on us with Mistress of Sacrifice.

You get 24% Attack block from our shield.
You can get another up to 12% attack block from an affix on our Shield.
You get around 26% attack block from Bone Offering.
You get 18% attack block from the skill tree.
This gives us max 75% Attack block (depending on shield, we need at least 7% block affix on shield)

You get 26% spell block from Tempest Shield.
You get 24% Spell Block from the skill tree.
You get around 26% spell block from Bone Offering.
This gives us max 75% Spell Block.

We also gain around 110 life every time we block (depending on our shield),
And 2.4% life regen for 4 seconds after blocking.

Minions will absorb a lot of hits, so the defenses are fine, unless you are doing something crazy dangerous like Sirius. But you can do Sirius if you are good at manually dodging.

Keep Bone Offering up at all times, it's crucial to your defense.

Keep moving. Movement is a key defense


Life flask with anti bleed/corrupted blood (anti curse here)
Quicksilver flask (+% movespeed is nice here)
Granite flask (+% armor is nice here)
Quartz flask (Anti curse is nice here)
5th flask can be your choice, life flask, mana flask, or another utility flask.

Flasks can now be crafted with Instilling Orbs which let you automate their use.
I like putting the granite and quartz flasks with "use when full", the life flask "use when bleeding"
This can be expensive depending on the price of Instilling Orbs, so probably not something you do right away.


Cast skeletons on each monster pack.

Cast Elemental Weakness on any Rare on Boss.

Quicksilver flask is your friend.

Use Vaal Summon Skeleton on Bosses and other encounters that stay in one place, Ultimatums, Rituals, Breaches, Blights, etc.

Keep Bone Offering up at all times, it's key to defense.

Keep moving. Flame Dash to avoid danger. Defensive flasks as needed.


We use Carnage Chieftains to get frenzy charges for our skels.
Carnage Chieftains can be found in Act 2 Old Fields or Act 7 The Ashen Fields

After you get Fleshcrafter, use Host Chieftains along with Carnage Chieftains. (2 of each). Host Chieftains give power charges. They also can be found in the Ashen Fields.

Spectre info for Newbies

To safely raise spectres:
If you have the Trigger craft in your weapon, you will have to remove the Bone Offering gem, and cast skeletons to trigger Desecrate, as spells in a weapon with the trigger craft cannot be self cast, only triggered.

Go to Old Fields or Ashen Fields, desecrate until you see the corpse of a Carnage Chieftain. (Hold "A" to see corpses)
Hovering over the Carnage Chieftain corpse, press the Raise Spectre button.
Repeat until you have the max allowed.
If you accidentally summon the wrong spectre, remove your spectre gem to unsummon all your spectres, put spectre gem back in, and try again.

When done, put removed gems back in place.
Remove raise spectre from your castbar, so you don't accidentally over write your Carnage Chieftain with some random lame spectre.

Once you have Carnage Chieftain, any zone you go into, including your hideout, gains the Carnage Chieftain as possible corpses you can desecrate.
So, if a Carnage Chieftain dies, you can right there, cast desecrate to get it back.
(You may have to cast desecrate many times, as it will not be a high chance.)

99.9% of monsters in the game, when raised as spectres, completely suck, but there are a few that are crazy OP.

Animated Guardian

Animated Guardians are made from gear you give them.
The gear can never be recovered.

The goal is to give the AG gear that buffs our other minions AND that make the AG very tanky, as AG death is expensive.

FYI: Gear that the AG has is locked to your toon. Swapping AG gems does not effect the gear. I.E. if you later on get a 21/20 AG gem, you can safely swap it in.

Cheap Gear AG

Leer Cast Helm
Ambu's Charge Chest
Dying Breath Weapon
Rare Boots with move speed, Life and high chaos resists
Rare Gloves with life and high chaos resist

Expensive Gear AG

Doppleganger Guise Chest (this is KEY to keep it alive)
Crown of the Tyrant Helm (the -10% resists here means your Dead Reckoning needs at least 8% minion res to cap your AG's elemental resistances)
Kingmaker weapon (this is key dps item)
Legacy of Fury boots (nearby enemies are scorched)
Rare Gloves with life.

NOTE: If you use FLeshcrafter body armor on yourself, DO NOT PUT ANY CHAOS RESIST GEAR ON YOUR AG. You AG will insta die if chaos res gets to 50 or higher.

There are many opinions on what high end gear to get for your AG
Feel free to look at other's opinions on how to gear an AG.

Link to a Video Guide for the Animated Guardian by Ghazzy

Gear Upgrades

First upgrade your amulet
+1 all skill gems with as much life and resists as you can afford.
Your ammy should be your first upgrade, so you can justify spending the currency to anoint it with Death Attunement

Then upgrade your shield
Armor base
Flat Life recovered on block, bonus Attack block, and Life with as much armor as you can afford. Resists are optional. High Armor is nice
Shaper influenced shields can get % max life recovered on block, which is better than flat life recovered on block, but much more expensive.
The most important thing is getting as much life as you can per block.

Then upgrade your body armor
A tabula with +2 duration gems corruption is SOMETIMES a great budget upgrade.
Prices vary a LOT each league.
Any corrupted chest with the right colors and a +2 duration gems corrupt is nice.

Eventually get a Fleshcrafter 6l body armor. These are EXPENSIVE.
Once you get this, you will need to swap out several gems.
Earlier in the guide I have a PoB link with my Archnemesis Skel Mage Necro using Fleashcrafter. It shows what gems to use.

Then upgrade your weapon
Get a convoking wand with (+1 all skill gems AND/OR +1 all minion skill gems) AND (% minion damage AND/OR minion cast speed)
Get the best one you can afford.
Remember: It HAS to have a free suffix to craft the "trigger socketed spells when you use a skill."
If you want to put mega currency into your build, you can get a wand with BOTH +1 all skill gems AND +1 all minion skill gems, along with minion damage, and minion cast speed and a free suffix. These are hideously expensive.

Get your jewels AFTER you have an anointed amulet and after you have a stygnian belt.

Desired jewel mods in order of importance
Minion damage if you have used a minion skill recently
Minion cast speed
Minion damage %
Flat minion damage (fire or cold or lightning)
These can get VERY expensive, so buy what you can afford.
(Jewels need at least 2 good mods to justify spending 2 passive points to get the socket in the tree.)

Optional Upgrades
Armor base
% minion damage (Redeamer influence)
+1 level of socketed AoE gems (crafted prefix)

ES or Armor/ES hybrid base
Delve boots can drop with
+1 level of all intelligence skill gems
+2 level of socketed minion gems.
Get one of the above mods with move speed and life.
Getting more than one of these mods, with life and move speed would likely be way too expensive.

Awakened gems
Only get if they are not very expensive.
Awakened Fork is much better than Pierce, if it is not too expensive.

Upgrades beyond the above mentioned might not be optimal.
Instead of investing massive currency into this build you might be better off transitioning into a minion build designed for high investment.
Kay's minion builds
Ghazzy's list of minion builds

Global Chat Channel for this build
type "/global 8123" in chat (without the quotes)
This will let you discus this build with others.
(The channel is also used for my other newbie builds.)
I will be in this channel, when I am logged in.


Last edited by Odif on May 8, 2022, 4:56:34 PM
Last bumped on May 8, 2022, 1:33:06 PM
How to Level with this build (for Newbies)

I recommend doing all quests as you level, along with league mechanics. This will cause you to be over leveled, which helps a lot. This is NOT necessary, if you want to rush, you can.

When you get to town at level 2, check the wand vendor (nessa) and the armor vendor (tarkleigh) for linked BBR and BBB items.
If you already have Dead Reckoning, you will ALSO need a BBG item!
Do this EVERY time you go to town, until you get them.
BBB item is for zombies, BBR for Summon Raging Spirits --> Skeletons
BBG item is for skeleton mages
I cannot stress this enough, DO THIS EVERY TIME YOU GO TO TOWN, until you have both.
At low level, gem links are more important than stats.

(This assumes you are league starting. If you already have a Tabula Rasa and other leveling gear, you don't need to buy 3 link items.)

You will need some strength on gear early on.
I suggest buying a Heavy belt from nessa.
You will need dex on your gear in Act 2
(Act 1 if you have Dead Reckonoing)
I suggest buying a Jade amulet from Nessa.

Even white items are ok, you NEED the stats.
When you get your crafting bench in Act 2, you can craft strength and dexterity on your gear as needed.

You just killed Hillock and made it to the first town.

Take Freezing Pulse as your first reward.
Get rid of Fireball, link Freezing Pulse to the Arcane Surge you got on the way to Hillock.
Buy Raise Zombie from the vendor (nessa)
Head out into Act 1. (remember to check the vendors)

How do I buy gems?

In acts 1-4, the vendor that sells wands and flasks also sells gems (tab 2)
They sell all gems that are offered to you as quest rewards PLUS some others.
These gems are sold PARTIALLY LEVELED, so when you can buy from them do so. They do not sell all gems, which ones they sell are class dependent. I.E. if you are a Witch they sell mostly caster gems.

In act 3 there is a side quest in the Library. When you do this, you unlock a gem vendor in the library that sells all Acts 1-3 gems in the game except the few that are drop only.
This vendor sells all gems at level 1.
this vendor requires you have the currency in your inventory, which can be annoying.

In act 6, after you do some quests, a in town gem vendor is unlocked, She sells all gems in the game that are not drop only. She sells them at level 1.


You will need wisdom scrolls to buy the first few skill gems.
Later you will need transmutation orbs to buy skill gems.
Still later you will need alteration orbs to buy gems.
Transmutation orbs are a bit scarce early on so...

Sell unidentified blue items for transmutation scraps.
Sell identified yellow items for alteration scraps.
You need several transmutation orbs, so sell LOTS of unidentified blue items early on.
I recommend picking up ALL blue items in Act 1 and selling them unidentified.
Once you have a surplus of transmutation orbs, stop picking up blue items.

Sell armor scraps and blacksmiths whetstones to get more wisdom scrolls.

Later in the game you will get more transmutation orbs and wisdom scrolls than you can deal with, so the above only applies to the first few acts of the game. Later on, save your armor scraps and blacksmith whetstones, and stop picking up blue items.

You will always need Alteration orbs.
(crafting good flasks at high level can take hundreds of alteration orbs for each flask)
So make a habit of picking up yellow items, identifying them, and vendoring them.
To make for less trips to town, you can choose to only pick up the smaller items, gloves, helms, boots, daggers, wands, rings, amulets, and belts.

NOTE: In the below details, only quests that give access to needed gems are listed. I still recommend you do ALL quests.

Act 1


Goals for Act 1
Raise Zombie linked to Summon Phantasm and Added Lightning Damage
Summon Raging Spirit linked to Melee Splash and Added Lightning Damage.
Transition to Skeletons linked to Melee Splash and added lightning damage.
Holy Flame Totem (unlinked)
Movement: Frost Blink transition to Flame Dash
Auras: Vitality
Flesh Offering

(Only quests that give needed gem rewards are listed. Do all quests!

Do Medicine Chest quest
Take Quicksilver Flask and Summon Phantasm Support as reward.
Link to Zombies

Do Breaking some eggs quest
There are two rounds of rewards.
Take Summon Raging Spirit as the first round reward
Take Frost Blink as a reward in second round.
Link SRS to Arcane Surge
Get rid of Freezing Pulse
Buy a Holy Flame Totem if you have the currency

Note: Zombies are very squishy at low level.
Resummon when they die, if you can do so easily. Your SRS are what are doing most of the damage at this point.
Once you get the Vitality Aura (after killing Brutus), zombies rarely die.
Later, zombies get very tanky.

Enter Lower Prison and take Way Point back to town
Take Added Lightning Damage as reward
Buy a second Added Lightning Damage and link one to SRS and the other to Zombie.
Buy a Melee Splash from vendor and link to SRS.


You will need HFT to kill Brutus

Brutus kills your zombies right away, don't bother resummoning.
Just kill him with the totem and SRS. Keep the totem between you and Brutus, casting SRS only when the totem is up. Resummon the totem as soon as it dies.

After you kill Brutus
Take Flame dash as reward, replace Frost Blink.
EITHER buy Summon Skeleton from vendor
OR trade with another player to buy Vaal Summon Skeleton.

(It normally costs 1 alchemy orb early league, which you may have.)
(If you do not, trade for it as soon as you can)
Remove SRS and put skeletons in it's place.
Buy Vitality from the vendor.

Enter Cavern of Wrath and take waypoint back to town
Take Flesh Offering as a reward

Merveil (Final boss of Act 1) does only cold damage.
Buy 2 saphire rings from nessa, if you can, to make her fight much easier.
She will likely kill your zombies, but your skels will carry the day.

At some point in Act 1, get a shield.
You should be using weapon + shield from now on.

You have Dead Reckoning

Same as No Dead Reckoning except...
Support Skeletons with Pierce, Added Lightning Damage
(Pierce is not available to Witches in Act's 1 and 2. To get a Pierce before Library quest in Act 3, create a throw away toon, a Ranger, and get it to town, picking up the Pierce gem on the way to Hillock.)

Act 2:

No Dead Reckoning

Goals for Act 2
Raise Zombie linked to Minion Speed, Summon Phantasm
Skeleton linked to Minion Speed, Melee Physical, (Melee Splash)
Auras: Vitality, Tempest Shield
Movement: Flame Dash
Desecrate level 1
Flesh Offering

Binding orbs can be found as early as Act 2.
When used on a white item, they turn it yelllow, and FORCE 4 linked sockets on it.
If you should find some, use on a hybrid Armor/ES chest, for your Skeletons. It may be worth using chromes early on, on a 4 link, to get desired colors, BUT only if the item is the proper base. I.E. Armor/ES base items are more likely to get red and blue colors.


Do Sharp and Cruel quest
Take Minion Speed as reward, swap into Skeleton replacing Added Lightning.
Buy Melee Physical Damage Support from vendor, swap into Skeleton replacing Melee Splash. If you have a 4 link, continue using the melee splash for Skeletons.
Buy Minion Speed from vendor. Swap into Raise Zombie replacing Added Lightning.

Do Intruders in Black quest
Take Desecrate as reward, leave as level 1.

Do The Root of the Problem quest
Take Tempest Shield as a reward.

You Have Dead Reckoning

Same as No Dead Reckoning, except...
Support Skeletons with: Pierce, Minion Speed, (Controlled Destruction)
(Controlled Destruction can be bought from vendor after doing Sharp and Cruel quest.

Act 3

No Dead Reckoning

Goals for Act 3
Raise Zombie linked to Meat Shield, Minion Speed, and Feeding Frenzy
Skeleton Linked to Minion Speed, Melee Physical, Ruthless.
Raise Spectre
Movement: Flame Dash
Auras: Determination, Vitality, and Tempest Shield
(Auras listed in order of importance if you feel mana starved.)
You should be able to do them all AFTER you have the full aura Cluster (sovereignty)
Desecrate level 1
Molten Shell (on Left Click)
Flesh Offering

4 links start dropping in Act 3 and can sometimes be found in a Vendor. Keep your eye out for the right colors,


Do Lost in Love quest
Take Convocation as reward

Do Sever the Right Hand quest
Take Raise Spectre as a reward.
Carnage Chieftains can be found in Act 2, The Old Fields.
See the section on SPECTRES for specifics on how to summon them.

Do Fixture of Fate quest (Library)
Meat Shield as a reward.
Buy from Clarissa in town: Feeding Frenzy
Buy from Siosa in the Library the following gems: Determination, Ruthless, Vulnerability, and Molten Shell.
You will need to have the currency in your inventory to buy from Siosa in the Library.
If you don't have sockets for everything, that's ok.

You Have Dead Reckoning

Same as no Dead Reckoning, except...
Support Skels with: Pierce, Minion Speed, Elemental Army
(Elemental Army is bought from vendor after doing Library quest)

Use Elemental Weakness instead of Vulnerability

Act 4

No Dead Reckoning

Goals for Act 4
Zombie and Stone Golem both linked to Meat Shield, Feeding Frenzy
Raise Spectre linked to Increased Area of Effect.
Skeleton linked to Multistrike, Minion Speed, Melee Physical
Movement: Flame Dash
Auras: Determination, Vitality, and Tempest Shield
Desecrate level 1
Molten Shell
Flesh Offering


Do Breaking the Seal quest
Take Stone Golem as a reward

Do The Eternal Nightmare quest
Take Multistrike as a reward, link to skeletons.
Buy Increased Area of Effect from vendor, link to spectres.

You have Dead Reckoning

Same as no Dead Reckoning except...
Support Skeletons with: Pierce, Spell Echo, Elemental Army
(Take Spell Echo as a reward from The Eternal Nightmare quest instead of Multistrike)

Use Elemental Weakness instead of Vulnerability

Acts 5-10

You now have your base leveling skills, and its time to focus on life and resists on gear.
Killing Kitava at the end of act 5 will give you a permanent -30% to all resists, and Killing Kitava at the end of act 10 will give another permanent -30% to all resists, so you need to start looking for gear with the right sockets that also has life and resists on it. Elemental resists are more important than chaos resist.

The other thing is to start looking for is flasks with good mods, like a life flask with anti bleeding or an enduring mana flask.

You should do the rest of the campaign without difficulty, as minions will kill all enemies with ease.

Save up your currency, so you can go buy a DEAD RECKONING

If you get a Dead Reckoning, swap over to the gem links mentioned in the Act 4 section.

You have killed act 10 Kitava, what now?

Do the questline that gives you access to maps.
Do not buy ANYTHING but the minimal to cap your elemental resists at 75 UNTIL you have a DEAD RECKONING.
Do NOT switch to the gem set up listed in the Skills and Links section UNTIL you have a DEAD RECKONING.

Just do early maps with a 4 link melee skels and the gem set up described in the ACT 4 section in the leveling section.

After you get Dead Reckoning...

Try and get all the gear listed in the Base Gear section.

Make sure your elemental resists are at 75% or higher.
If you can, get chaos resist to 75, but this is optional.
You can use your crafting bench to supplement the gear you buy.

Since we are now shopping for our mapping gear, we drop Vitality. We get all the gear with all the colors listed in the BASE GEAR section.
We have Flesh Offering and Wrath-Zealotry equipped.
We dont start using Bone Offering until we do Uber Lab
We don't start using Zealotry until we have Dead Reckoning and the Armor Mastery that gives 25% mana reservation for Determination.
(Bone offering bought in act 1. Tempest Shield in act 2. Generosity and Zealotry in act 3)

I would avoid putting any gear into Animated Guardian until later, too much risk of it dying until the gem is at least 19/20.
The Minion Life support can be purchased in Act 1.

Start Mapping!

I have moved my General Newbie help files to a single location.

There is a Section with general advice for newbies, and a section with specific information about minions for newbies.

All newbies should click on that link and read the "General Information for Newbies" section.

Links to my other newbie minion guides

Absolution-Slave Driver Necromancer

Wintertide-Vortex Inquisitor

Relative strenghts of the 3 builds

Wintertide-Vortex Inquisitor is the smoothest leveling experience and easiest transition to maps. It has the lowest damage potential with currency investment.

Skeleton Mage Necromancer is the hardest transition to maps, due to needing the unique jewel to get skeleton mages, and how expensive it is early league.
It has the highest damage potential with currency investment.

Absolution-Slave Driver Necromancer is in between the other two both in smooth leveling and damage potential with currency investment.

Last edited by Odif on Feb 1, 2022, 1:38:20 PM
This post is for recounting my play testing.

Here is my simulated league start, late scourge league, NO DEAD RECKONING


Act 1

The build starts out with slow dps.
Zombies and Freezing Pulse till level 4, then Zombies and Summon Raging Spirit till after Brutus.

Checking the vendors every time I went to town produced a linked BBB and BRR items long before I needed them.

I was chronically short of transmutation orbs, so I recommend that you pick up ALL blue items in Act 1 and vendor them UNIDENTIFIED.
Even if that is a lot of trips to town.
Each unidentified blue item produces 1/10 of a transmutation orb. Tedious but necessary.
Sell armor scraps and whetstones to get more wisdom scrolls.

You can even sell a few unidentified yellow items for more transmute shards.
But when you have enough transmutes, sell yellows identified for alteration shards.

Things went smoothly, and a bit slowly up to Brutus.
The Holy Flame Totem REALLY helped dps early, and helped heal zombies.
It's very nice pre Brutus. And absoultely required to kill Brutus easily.

I found a suitable shield pretty quickly, and transitioned to wand and shield.

Brutus fight tips
He kills your zombies right away, don't bother resummoning.
Just kill him with the totem and SRS. Keep the totem between you and Brutus, casting SRS only when the totem is up. Resummon the totem as soon as it dies, or if it is no longer in between you and Brutus.

Once you get Skeletons after Brutus things go much easier.
Skeletons move VERY slowly, so its important to summon them on top of enemies.

They do a lot of damage, once they get to enemies, and its a very relaxed playstyle, but not the fastest clear speed.

To quote the Witch: "Everything dies!"

After Brutus, Vitality aura makes the zombies die less often.

Buy 2 saphire rings from Nessa for the Merveil fight.
(Final Act 1 boss)
All her damage is cold damage.

Merveil was relatively easy, just had to dodge her damage. She did kill a the zombies, and the skeletons died pretty fast, but I just kept summoning more skels, down she went.
Putting a Holy Flame Totem in the center of the skeletons helped them survive longer.

Act 2

Getting Minion Speed and Melee Physical Damage supports for skellies turns them into killing machines.
Things go SO much better after that.
EZ mode.
You should have bought a Vaal Summon Skeleton by now, also.
VSS makes boss fights a breeze!

Final Act boss was trivial.
Make sure you dodge his overhand slam attack.
Here is the gear I used to kill the Act 2 final boss.

Note the white chest and wand. I bought those for 1 wisdom each from vendor in act 1.
The rings and ammy I crafted with essences.
The rest of the gear was dropped.
I spent a few jewelers and chroms getting the right colors for gems.
As I said in the guide, at low level, socket colors and links are more important than affixes.

Act 3

I got a 4 link for my skels
that helped dps in general.

Getting the spectre gem let me get a Carnage Chieftain.
Uptime on frenzy charges is low, with only one spectre, but there is 1 frenzy charge most of the time, nice dps boost.
Dominus was so easy. I was able to cast Vaal Summon Skeleton 3 times.
Here is the gear I used to kill Dominus

Act 4

Getting Multistrike made the skels do even MORE damage.
So nice.

Piety's Beam of Bleeding killed a lot of minions, but resummoning skels killed her.
Malachi was easy.

Acts 5-10

Melee skels are slow but unstoppable.
In situations that kill minions, just resummon and win.
It's a VERY easy, but a bit slow progress thru the rest of the Acts.
Nothing of significance to report.


I bought nothing to augment the build excpet to cap elemental resists.
Went into maps with just a 4 link for skels.

It went fine, slow but steady.

You will have no problem farming low tier maps for currency to buy Dead Reckoning.

I even did some tier 6 maps with just a 4 link melee skels, no problem, just not that fast.

The 4 link melee skels DID have a problem with some of the timed "special content" like blight, where the dps was too low for the timer.

Luckily this problem goes away when you get Dead Reckoning.

Transition to Dead Reckoning.

Got a dead reckoning and a tabula, bought a level 20 vaal skel gem, switched over to a 6l skel mage set up.
Still no Uber Lab or +1 skills weapon.

Major upgrade in DPS and clear speed.
No more slogging thru maps, much more zoom zoom.
Did a blight easily.

Even did a tier 11 map.
Dps was ok, as the lack of a +1 skill gem weapon, and the low level of support gems was noticable, but its doable.

With a +1 weapon, a +1 ammy and the annoint, it will dominate red maps.

Easy mode enabled.

Here is my simulated league start, late scourge league, WITH a Dead Reckoning

Act 1

I am assuming starting with nothing but a Dead Reckoning, and a Vaal Summon Skeleton gem.
I muled a pierce via a throw away toon ranger.
I checked the vendors and quickly got the BBB BBR and BBG items.

Going was very slow at first
As soon as I hit level 10, I got rid of SRS and started using Skel Mages with Pierce.
Dps was weak at first, I supplemented it with Holy Flame Totem unsupported.
UNLESS I cast Vaal Summon Skel. Having 15 skel mages MELTS everything. Amazing.

Brutus went down safely, I kept HFT up and stayed away from Brutus, I kept casting skel mages on top of totem to take advantage of the healing it gives.

Act 2

Not much to say.
When I got Minion Speed support, the damage on skel mages was high enough to stop using holy Flame Totem for extra damage.

Vaal summon skeleton deleted every boss, including the final act boss.

EZ mode.

I did it all on 3 links and junk gear.

Act 3

Everything was so easy. I did the whole act on 3 links.
When I got Raise Spectre, I summoned a single Carnage Chieftain.
Uptime on Frenzy Charges is not good with a single spectre, but it helps.
Dominus was trivial.

Act 4

Ok, this is absurd.
I was unlucky, and did the whole act without finding a 4 link with the right colors.
Yet, with only 3 link skills, I dominated.
Piety and her bleed beem of death? Deleted before she could do significant damage.
Malachi? Deleted, each phase lasting 1 or 2 seconds.
I was so over powered, I never bothered to Ascend.

Here is the absurdly sucky gear that I used to do Act 4

I see no point in further testing.
If you have Dead Reckoning, leveling is trivial.

Last edited by Odif on Jan 17, 2022, 1:07:56 PM
Nice guide!

1 Question: In your PoB, you are using tempest shield instead of increased duration (suggested in the guide) in your wand. Which one are you using?

Nevare87 wrote:
Nice guide!

1 Question: In your PoB, you are using tempest shield instead of increased duration (suggested in the guide) in your wand. Which one are you using?


Tempest Shield makes you immune to shock and gives a bunch of spell block. Its what you should use.


Last edited by Tainted_Turkey on Jan 17, 2022, 11:54:35 AM
Nevare87 wrote:
Nice guide!

1 Question: In your PoB, you are using tempest shield instead of increased duration (suggested in the guide) in your wand. Which one are you using?


Thanks for pointing that out.
In an earlier version, I had Tempest Shield elsewere, and I did not update it properly.

I will fix it.
Last edited by Odif on Jan 17, 2022, 12:55:39 PM
Hey Odif, looking forward to trying this out!

How would you say your build differs from staples like Kay's?

AwesomeBaker wrote:
Hey Odif, looking forward to trying this out!

How would you say your build differs from staples like Kay's?


While I highly respect the builds of Kay and Ghazzy, the significant difference is focus.

My build is entirely focused on newbies, their needs, their difficulties.

Kay and Ghazzy are more concerned about making builds that do well in end game.

I believe their builds are better in end game, and mine are better for newbies.

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