[3.21] Cold Conversion Blade Vortex Elementalist / Occultist (League Starter + League Finisher)

(Updated for Patch 3.21 as of Apr. 5th 2023)

This is my take on the classic paradigm of Cold Conversion Blade Vortex that focuses on building around the early power spike of the Elementalist and her golems as a league-starter, before evolving into a highly-scalable Occultist for zooming, booming, and even bossing. It also uses some unprecedented, basic, arithmetic to optimize Unleash support, and gets survivability from strong, proliferating, freezes.

3.20 Guide: https://youtu.be/5d_RxWDlinE
(this is the most comprehensive video version of the guide, and most of it still applies in patch 3.21)
Beginner's Guide to BV: https://youtu.be/7tig4cIxrEw
3.21 Guide Update: https://youtu.be/RU5QjQ7bkxw

https://pobb.in/YU1y-W-UWMbX (exported Apr. 7th 2023)

Build Philosophy
My POE way of the ninja is playing one character from league-start to league-end, until all the currently available content is cleared, and eventually trivialized. So that's what this build is designed to do.

It's a Jack-of-all-trades league-starter that can feel good mapping, bossing, and everything in between. But crucially, it can also scale to the moon with proper investment, and take on the toughest challenges in the game.

Keys to the Build
1. Damage output is largely contingent on maintaining 10 Blades, since BV scales exponentially with the number of blades you have out.

2. Maintaining 10 Blades is easy and comfortable if the following conditions are met:
a. You have 4 maximum Unleash seals (creating 5 blades on a max seal cast)
b. Your Skill Duration for BV is at least 1 second more than TWICE the time it takes to generate maximum seals. USE THIS EQUATION: Skill Duration - 1 >= 2*MaxSealTime
c. You cast BV whenever you are at maximum seals or within about a .5 second window
d. This principle is referred to as the "Skill Duration :: Seal Generation Ratio"

3. Until you can afford to tank up, the best defense is a good freezefense.
Blast-Freeze and full cold-conversion will enable you to freeze even extremely strong enemies with relatively low investment.
This build starts out as a not-quite-glass cannon that largely relies on freezing enemies before they can do anything to you, but can easily be made a lot tankier with a little investment.

4. Golems are spectacular in the early part of a league, because their effectiveness isn't contingent upon gear at all.
Simply getting the Elementalist ascendancies and leveling the skill gems will provide a substantial boost to offense and defense no matter how well geared you are. ^7

5. This build can function on extremely low Unreserved Mana. Approximately 60-70 should be plenty, and since you don't ever spam cast, having ~60-70 Mana Regen is sufficient.
As long as you can cast Vortex and Blade Vortex without waiting for regen, you'll never feel like you don't have enough mana.

6. Stacking a lot of +Skill Gem Levels is better than ever before thanks to the new damage numbers from patch 3.17
BV scales exponentially with more levels (up to Gem Level 30), and bigger base numbers mean that the exponential scaling is even more dramatic at the top end.

7. Vaal Blade Vortex serves many purposes
a. Gives you an option to do damage from range, which is essential for porcupines prior to corpse explosion, and extremely helpful for very dangerous mobs and Heists.
b. Two charges means a huge damage boost on bosses
c. Enhances clear speed
d. Helps with League Content like Blight/Legion/Breach where it's good to be doing damage over a large area.

8. Blade Vortex gets +1 Base Radius at Gem level 22 and again at Gem Level 29.
This is massive, especially with Vast Power and other large sources of increased AOE.
Keep this in mind when debating between rare wands/sceptres and Void Batteries, and when deciding to use Empower Support or not in high-end version of the build.

9. Alira is pretty much always the ideal Bandit Choice
Although this build has some very crucial nodes on the tree, and even in cluster jewels, it doesn't benefit greatly from extra points beyond those essentials.
I would only give up Alira if I was extremely overcapped in Resistances, and somehow had plenty of Mana Regeneration without any investment that couldn't be better used on damage/survivability.
It's already hard to do better than 25% Crit Multi with just 2 points, so the other benefits would have to be completely useless for it to be justifiable.

10. Ailment Effect is a sneakily strong source of damage up to a certain point, since it increases the effectiveness of Bonechill Support and Brittle Ground.
The benefit to Bonechill is capped when your Vortex is chilling at 200% increased effect, for a total of 30%.
The benefit to Brittle Ground is capped at 200% increased effect as well, since Brittle is capped at 6% and Brittle Ground defaults at 2%. Of course, it's also capped when you're crit-capped.
You'll reach the Bonechill cap first since Bonechill itself provides increased ailment effect.

10. Blizzard Crowns are worse than a helmet WITHOUT any implicit in 99.9% of cases with this build. Do not be fooled. Delete the implicit from the helm in POB and check if your damage goes up.

11. The phases of the build are all designed to be strong at BOTH Bossing AND Mapping, and so there are certainly trade-offs that could be made in favor of one or the other if you have a specific goal. The balance currently being struck is meant to make mapping feel quick and easy, while also enabling you to handily defeat all invitations/pinnacle bosses as you unlock them during the beginning of the league.

12. Shield Charge provides a massive boost to movement speed, and is definitely worth learning to use even if it seems difficult at first.

1. Damage output can stay at 100% while running around and only casting once every 2-3 seconds.
2. Freeze can still function as a layer of defense regardless of offensive monster mods and player defense penalties, enabling extreme map-juicing on lower gear investment.
3. Functions on 0 investment at first, thanks to the power of Golems.
4. Scales to the moon due to the high number of "more" damage multipliers that it can utilize, and BV's built-in 350% multiplier at 10 active blades.

1. Limited range, so it can sometimes feel like a melee skill. Vaal BV helps, but doesn't have 100% uptime unless you spam anti-soul gain prevention sextants, so we have to be smart about engaging projectiles-launching packs of mobs. And by "smart" I mean frostblinking onto them ASAP.
2. Mediocre base movement speed. Shield charge helps, but some map layouts are not conducive to charging around.
3. Too much fun. If you're not careful, it can ruin other builds for you.

Acts 1-5
Get three items with B-B-G / B-B-B links as fast you can.

Use Frostblink/Frost Bomb to kill tougher packs.

Get to Elemental Overload as soon as possible (passing through Lightning Walker)

Add Skitterbots and Herald of Thunder as soon as you are high enough level.

For the Bandit Quest, help Alira, Alira is Bae.

Try to save any G-G-G-B links, B-B-B-B links, or 4-linked Evasion/Energy Shield items in general, as you will want those for the swap to Blade Vortex + Vortex.

You'll want at least two items with Red sockets as well, for Herald of Purity, Shield Charge, and Golems.

Continue putting points on the tree to get closer to the Level 41 version. Prioritize Life nodes, then Ash Frost and Storm. The rest of the points won't be of much impact until after the swap.

This will get you through Act 5, as there aren't any more gem changes or Vendor Recipes needed until the swap to BV.

The Swap to BV

Clear the Labyrinth and get the Liege of the Primordial Ascendancy. Add Stone/Flame golem, and link them to Culling Strike if you have the slots.

You can also do the lab after the swap to BV, but I recommend doing it first, especially if you've been speedrunning, because the loot from the treasure chests can aid with the swap.

Clear the Twilight Strand to unlock all basic gems.

Ideally, buy Hrimsorrow Gloves (should be 1-5C). If you can't do this, skip ahead to the section below.**

Unsocket these gems:
1. Stormblast + Supports
2. Orb of Storms + Supports
3. Conductivity
4. Flame Dash
5. Herald of Thunder
6. Summon Skitterbots

Buy these gems:
Act 6 - Cold Penetration, Shield Charge, Faster Attacks Support, Vortex (be sure to buy Vortex here instead of Act 3, because you actually want a level 1 gem)
Act 1 - Blade Vortex
Act 2 - Herald of Ice, Herald of Purity, Culling Strike Support
Act 3 - Hatred, Frostbite
Act 4 - Bonechill (and Stone/Chaos/Flame/Lightning/Ice golems if you have orbs of Chance, but you won't equip all of these yet)

Use your Respec Points to make the necessary changes to your Passive Tree.

***Benchcraft dex/resistances as needed.

Make sure you have the Increased Skill Duration Mastery

Add Vortex with Bonechill Support, attaching a low level Arcane Surge as well if you can afford the gem slot.

Do not level up the Vortex gem unless you happen to have weapons/jewelry with increased mana regeneration, the damage coming from the vortex is a non-factor, and its only purpose is activating Bonechill's damage boost and generating consistent Arcane Surge.
The only benefit from a higher level gem would be enabling a slightly higher level Arcane Surge, which is now even more negligible thanks to the Arcane Surge nerf in patch 3.21

Continue using Frost Bomb on beefy packs/bosses to inflict exposure.

Add Hatred, Herald of Purity, and Herald of Ice. Get the Mana Mastery for the required reservation efficiency.

PRO TIP: Try to avoid socketing the golems/auras in your weapons so that you can bind the summon/activation hotkeys on your weapon swap hotbar and not have them despawn/toggle off when you swap back/forth.

Get Vaal Blade Vortex ASAP, even before you can afford gem quality. I immediately use every vaal orb I get, until I hit a Vaal BV or can afford one off of trade.

Start leveling shield Charge with Faster Attacks Support in your weapon-swap. They'll feel a lot smoother if they're leveled when you try adding it to the build, but use them as soon as they feel comfortable for you. If you don?t have enough strength from the random gear you?ve found to keep leveling the gems, don?t worry about it until you?re in maps.

This will get you through the rest of the Campaign.

If Hrimsorrow Are Inaccessible
SKIP THIS SECTION, UNLESS you weren't fortunate enough to drop a few chaos orbs in the early acts, are playing SSF, or lack access to Hrimsorrow Gloves for whatever reason:

Unsocket these gems:
1. Stormblast + Supports
2. Orb of Storms + Supports
3. Conductivity
4. Flame Dash
5. Herald of Thunder
6. Summon Skitterbots

Buy these gems:
Act 6 - Physical to Lightning Support, Shield Charge, Faster Attacks Support, (buy Vortex here instead of act 3, because you actually want a level 1 gem)
Act 1 - Blade Vortex
Act 2 - Trinity Support, Herald of Ice, Herald of Purity, and Culling Strike Support
Act 3 - Hatred, Elemental Weakness
Act 4 - Bonechill Support (and Stone/Chaos/Flame golems if you have orbs of Chance, but you won't equip these yet)

Get the Cold Mastery "Convert 40% of Physical Damage to Cold Damage"

With this setup, your damage should be balanced enough to maintain full Trinity Resonance, but you may have to make small tweaks depending on your gear. Make sure to add "50" in the config for resonance in POB.

Changes to Consider:
1. Swap Herald of Ice/Herald of Thunder/Herald of Purity
2. Move points around on the tree, out of or into lightning/cold nodes
3. Hatred outclasses Wrath immensely in overall DPS, so swap them only as a last resort

The Trinity setup will actually work into red maps if necessary, but balancing your cold and lightning damage is a hassle, so you'll still want to pick up a pair of Hrimsorrow Gloves as soon as you can afford them.

In the meantime, go back and complete the section above, starting with "Benchcraft dex/resistances as needed" ***

Early Mapping
Equip the Silver Flask from the A10 Quest if you haven't already

Continue using Frost Bomb as a source of Exposure and Frostblink as a gap crossing tool.

Get the Elemancer ascendency and the Golem Commander notable if you haven't already.

Use Flame/Stone/Chaos Golems to boost your damage and survivability, and Lightning Golem for QOL from cast/attack speed.

Add Culling Strike Support to 3/4 of your Golems in one of your 4-link setups if you haven't already.

For your third ascendency, get Bastion of Elements if you need to shore up your survivability, or Mastermind of Discord if you need to shore up your damage during early mapping. This will depend on the gear you dropped during the campaign.

Don't worry about getting a 4th Unleash seal via Caster Mastery until at least level 15 Unleash, as before that point you won't have fast enough seal generation or long enough skill duration for the 4th seal to be useful.
Until then, just cast whenever you have max seals while running, and spam a couple casts on tougher mobs.

Definitely work Shield Charge with Faster Attacks support into the build if you haven't done so yet.

When you get a 5-link, use Hypothermia as the 5th link.

Use the Brine King and Abberrath Pantheons for Freeze Immunity and protection against Ignites.
60% Less Duration of ignites is more than enough mitigation, because if 40% of an ignite is enough to kill you, the hit that applied the ignite probably would have one-shot you already.

This will get you well into Yellow/Early Red Maps.

Late Mapping (Investing in Critical Strikes)
At around level 75, you should have enough passive points to get to the Whispers of Doom Notable, enabling the addition of Assassin's Mark.
You can free up even more points by exiting the Witch starting location via the intelligence nodes instead of the ones that give negligible spell damage (as shown on the trees), but I wouldn't recommend doing that prior to this point.

I like running Assassin's Mark on an Arcanist Brand setup along with Frostbomb, but if you can't afford the gem slot, it can also be self-cast relatively easily due to its permanent duration.

Always use Assassin's Mark on Bosses, and use it periodically while mapping (slightly more than once every 10 seconds) in order to generate Power Charges reliably.

Spec out of Elemental Overload and the Caster Mastery on the left side of the tree. Instead, get Caster Mastery from the Arcane Expanse Notable.

Change up your support gems, probably dropping Hypothermia and Cold Penetration in favor of Increased Critical Strikes and Increased Critical Damage.
Check POB because the damage output is often very close either way, and individual results may vary depending on gear.
If you're struggling with Cold-Resistant Monsters in particular, definitely keep using Cold Penetration support.

If you want to add Lightning Golem for the QOL from attack/cast speed, consider replacing Flame Golem or Ice Golem; choose to keep whichever one POB says gives you more damage.

It doesn't matter which 3 of your 4 golems have culling strike, as they all "hit", so the socket colors for this setup in the Skills section are just suggestions.

Gearing Priorities:
1. Boots with a Brittle Ground implicit, buy some or try to add a Brittle Ground implicit to your boots with eldritch currency.
2. Cluster Jewel with Blast-Freeze as soon as possible, as this is one of the biggest upgrades in the entire build, providing significant defense via freeze proliferation and more clear for Herald of Ice explosions.
Blast-Freeze can be found on Large Cluster Jewels with Increased Cold Damage and Medium Cluster Jewels with Increased Effect of Non-Damaging Ailments.
Other good notables on the Large Cluster would be Doryani?s Lesson, Blanketed Snow, Widespread Destruction, or Prismatic Heart.
On the Medium Cluster, try to get Astonishing Affliction as a second notable.
3. Corrupt Hrimsorrows - try to find a pair with Spell Critical Strike Chance, Maximum Life, or +Gem Levels.

Invest in cold ailment/freeze duration, as this will let you freeze much beefier targets. 60% increased freeze duration is essentially "Freeze as though dealing 60% more damage."

Use whatever surplus unreserved mana you have on an appropriately leveled Precision or Vitality aura.
Alternatively, you can also consider linking Herald of Ice to a support gem like Added Cold Damage or Increased Critical Strikes.
This can increase your clear speed substantially if you find that basic Herald of Ice isn't enough.

When you do the Uber Lab, get either Bastion of Elements or Mastermind of Discord, whichever you didn't choose last time.

The Starkonja's Hood in the gear for this setup is just an example of a helm with a lot of Dex and Life, and sometimes you can get lucky and find an affordable one with a BV enchant because people get them from Div Cards.
It's not a necessary unique for the build by any means.

Carcass Jack is also just a suggestion, but is certainly a very strong item for the build if you're focused primarily on DPS over survivability.

If you get a 6-link, add Inspiration Support, but only if you're high enough level to use Gem Level 18+, as the mana cap for resetting the charges will be too low to reliably have 5 charges at lower levels.
If you're too low level, add whichever of these four (Hypothermia, Critical Strike Damage, Cold Penetration, Added Cold Damage) you're not using.

This build should be strong enough to kill End Game Bosses and farm Alch+Go T16 Maps, even without the 6-link.

If this is your first time playing the build, you may find that after absolutely cruising through all content up to this point, doing high tier maps can sometimes feel a little difficult by comparison.

The key to making the build feel good at this stage is to avoid certain map mods that make it more difficult (or even impossible) to freeze enemies, as we are relying on freeze as our primary defensive layer until we can accumulate some currency and tank up in a more traditional fashion.

I use the following criteria when deciding if a scouring orb is needed:

1. Monsters Action Speed Cannot be Reduced Below Base Value
2. Monsters Take Reduced Extra Damage from Critical Strike, Monsters Gain Elemental Resistance, and Monsters Have More Life
3. Monsters Have a Chance to Suppress Spell Damage and Monsters Have a Chance to Avoid Elemental Ailments
4. Reduced Curse/Aura Effect, Cannot Inflict Exposure, Hexproof

Always reroll #1, it's as bad as reflect for a build that can't handle reflect.
One mod from #2 in isolation is ok, but a combo is much more deadly.
#3 are not the worst, but are dangerous when combined with one or two others on the list
I count two mods from #4 to be the same as one from #2

Tanking Up
Once you have about 10-15 Divines to invest in the build, you're ready to tank up.

I recommend prioritizing adding armour via auras and a Granite Flask before investing in spell suppression, since enabling Molten Shell is still a massive increase to survivability, even with patch 3.21 nerfing it.

Start by getting enough Mana Reservation Efficiency to enable the auras.

First, remove Precision/Vitality Aura if you were using it.

Buy an Amulet you won't mind keeping for a while, and annoint Charisma on it. (Gold+Gold+Opalescent)

Craft a Grand or Exceptional Mana Reservation Efficiency Eldritch implicit on your helm. Consider using the Orb of Conflict method to save currency if the price is right (see the video pinned in discord for details).

Get a 3-passive Small Cluster Jewel with Mana Reservation Efficiency, and either a Spiteful Presence or Uncompromising Notable.

For the last little bit needed, there are four options:
1. Get a jewel with a mana reservation efficiency explicit.
2. Look for small clusters with increased effect.
3. Increase your base mana (ideally with ring prefixes, since its hard to make good use of these at lower budget levels)
4. Spec into the Herald Reservation Efficiency nodes on the tree if you don't have them already.

Add Determination, Defiance Banner, and a Granite Flask.

Add Vaal Molten Shell, either manually cast or linked to Cast When Damage Taken Support depending on your personal preference.

For Spell Suppression:

First, prioritize freeing up some points on the passive tree to enable taking the Instinct Notable Cluster.

If Awakened Unleash Level 5 is affordable, grab one ASAP so you no longer need Caster Mastery.
Prior to patch 3.20, this was a 1ex/1div gem, but it was several times more expensive than that during the early parts of Sanctum League due to the popularity of Summon Raging Spirit (and possibly BV), so the price in 3.21 is difficult to predict,
This is the main reason why I adjusted the budget level at this stage to 10-15 div instead of 5-10 as it was in previous iterations.

Another option for saving points that could be more affordable than Awakened Unleash is an early Impossible Escape with either Necromantic Aegis or Magebane.
Either of these will unlock access to the all-important duration nodes, and a Magebane version also has spell suppression in range (but as such it will probably be more expensive).
Ideally, pair the jewel with a BV Duration Lab Enchant on your Helm to make up for the lost mastery.

Once you have the points, Spec into the Instinct Notable cluster, and get the Mastery that makes your suppression chance "Lucky."
While Lucky won't get you to 100%, it will turn 90% into 99%, and the difference between 99% and 100% is only really a factor for hardcore players.
Losing a portal 1/100 times you get hit with spell damage that's between 100% and 200% of your max HP should be tolerable.
I recommend going as low as even 96% effective suppression chance, which means needing just 80% total before the Lucky Mastery.

After filling out the passives, Look for Armour/Evasion bases that have high Spell Suppression.
Spell suppression can only roll on bases with evasion, and you'll want as much base armour as possible as well.

If you can get max-rolled T1 Suppression on your Gloves, Helmet, Body Armour, and Boots, you can get up to 64% Spell Suppression from those pieces.

The best Eldritch Implicits to target are:
Exarch Helm - Physical Damage to Spells, Frostbite Effect, Damage Per Power Charge (Individual Results May Vary, Consult POB)
Eater Helm - Mana Reservation Efficiency
Exarch Chest - Increased Aura Effect
Eater Chest - Increased Hatred/Determination Effect
Exarch Gloves - Chance to Unnerve Enemy on Hit
Eater Gloves - Phys to Cold Conversion
Exarch Boots - Brittle Ground
Eater Boots - Phys as Extra Cold, Life Regeneration Rate

Replace your gloves last, as you will need to buy/craft a pair that has the Eater of Worlds Physical to Cold Conversion implicit AND a crafted/unveiled Physical to Cold Conversion mod on them,
You will also need to Spec into the 40% Physical to Cold Conversion Mastery, in order to make up for the loss of conversion from Hrimsorrow.

I recommend aiming for 90% Physical to Cold Conversion at first (25% Exceptional Tier Eldritch Implicit + 25% Crafted Mod + 40% Mastery), since the cost of going for the 35% Exquisite Tier Eldritch Implicit or crafting gloves with the 35% Veiled Mod and Spell Suppression is significantly higher
The main benefit of 100% conversion isn't the superior damage, but rather the ability to do Physical Reflect content, which is something of a luxury.

With perfectly rolled gear, and the Instinct Cluster, you will be at 86% total, or 98% when accounting for the Lucky Mastery.
You can make up any deficit with a crafted mod on your shield that can add up to 10% suppression chance.

With perfect rolls on the other pieces, it's possible to get just under 97% suppression chance while skipping over the gloves, boots, or helmet.
If 97% is enough to satisfy your personal preference, consider skipping the gloves and getting a nice pair of corrupt Hrimsorrows instead.

For even more extreme survivability, add a Jade Flask and swap out Hatred for Grace.
I personally don't recommend this, but if you're newer to POE and feel like you're dying too much it might be worth considering.

This build should be able to easily farm Juicy T16s, Logbooks, Blueprints, or anything else short of 100% Delirious Maps and the Uber Pinnacles.

Swap to Occultist
Before swapping to Occultist, make sure you have the following items:
1. A Void Battery Wand or any weapon of similar power level. Choose whatever has the best price/damage ratio, but make sure it?s at least as strong as the VB would be.
2. 1-2x Medium Cluster Jewels with Vast Power and Towering Threat Notables
3. Militant Faith Timeless Jewel with High Templar Dominus (look for aura effect and area/elemental damage per devotion mods, and then use the new timeless jewel feature in POB to check if it will ruin an important notable on the tree)
4. Ring with Frostbite-on-Hit (you should have this already, but it's absolutely necessary for the Occultist to take advantage of Profane Bloom)
5. A source of Lifesteal to make up for losing the Golem regen. Doryani's Lesson Cluster Notable, Amulet Explicit/Implicit, or Anamolous Quality Blade Vortex are preferred.

Level to approx 94-95, as you will want the extra points to get to the +1 power charge nodes without sacrificing too much beyond what is no longer needed (crit/golems).

Spec out of the golem nodes and into the nodes relevant to Power Charges.
If you have enough crit chance from other sources, you can also probably spec out of the critical strike nodes.
With Power Charges, Brittle Ground, Assassin's Mark, and a little bit of ailment effect and crit chance from your weapons, you should be crit-capped, and IMO golems are not worth the hassle without the ascendency that resummons them on death.

Spec out of the "wheel of life" nodes near the Scion start, and grab the life nodes closer to the maximum power charge nodes, these grant aura effect and life recovery on kill, which are very useful.

Use the extra points to add 1-2 Medium Cluster Jewels with Vast Power and Towering Threat.
Whether you add one or two will depend on your current clusters, because a Blast-Freeze Medium Cluster can only be replaced if you can get Freeze Proliferation elsewhere.

Swap out Hypothermia Support for Power Charge on Critical Support.

Keep using Frost Bomb at least until you can afford Level 5 Awakened Cold Penetration Support

Add a source of lifesteal. Anamolous BV is an excellent option, as losing 10% AOE on just your Blade Vortex isn't that big of a deal since it won't affect the size of your explosions. Alternatively, look for an amulet with a corrupt implicit or a redeemer/delve explicit.

Add Awakened Unleash level 5 if you haven't yet so that you can finally spec out of Caster Mastery.

Your DPS/Max HP won't change dramatically with these initial upgrades, but the addition of Profane Bloom is an immense boost to your farming speed that cannot be quantified by POB, and increasing your damage output from here is much more efficient than it would be for the Elementalist.

This build is the absolute map-blaster that will farm you your Headhunter. It clears similarly difficult content to the Elementalist, but does so much faster.

Scaling the Occultist
Once you've made the swap to Occultist, no upgrade will feel as massive as a Headhunter, so I highly recommend saving for one if you can, but the build can still be improved in smaller increments as well, either before or after the addition of the Headhunter.

That being said, maintaining ~100% spell suppression while getting more damage from your armour past this point can be extremely expensive if not nearly impossible.

Therefore, focus on improving jewels, jewelry, and weapons with +Skill Gem Levels, Max Power Charges, and Crit Strike Multi.

Unique Flasks like Taste of Hate and Bottled Faith are also excellent options for more damage.

A Circle of Guilt with Herald of Purity Buff Effect and Increased Physical Damage, plus good implicits, can be a huge damage boost if you can afford to lose the resistances from your ring.
+1 Maximum Power Charges is obviously the best, but these will be very rare and expensive, as will onslaught and curse on hit.
Damage per power charge is really strong and often affordable, but after that the damage mods all become pretty much interchangeable.

The best Watcher's Eye mods for pure DPS are:
1. Hatred Cold Pen
2. Zealotry Crit Pen
3. Zealotry Increased Damage taken on Consecrated Ground
4. Hatred Crit Chance (if not capped)
Note: Hatred Crit Chance gives base crit to all of your damage output, which enables profane bloom, explody chests, and herald of ice to crit, despite those all having 0% base critical strike chance by default. If you care at all about blasting maps, this is basically a necessity.

Other mods like increased/added cold damage are usually significantly worse, but it may depend on the rest of your gear.

The Watcher's Eye Determination mods are all nice defensive bonuses with the obvious exceptions of Block Chance and Reduced Physical Reflected Damage Taken. The best is probably Reduced Extra Damage Taken from Critical Strikes, but it's difficult to say for sure and will depend on how much armour you have.

Get a Skill Duration Enchantment on your Helmet ASAP, as it is a nice QOL boost, and necessary for the ideal final shape of the passive tree.

An Impossible Escape Jewel with Necromantic Aegis or Magebane enables you to get the Skill Duration bonus you need to maintain the ideal Skill Duration :: Seal Generation Ratio without wasting travel points (as long as you have a helmet enchant), unlocking the ideal final shape of the passive tree.

The ideal final shape of the tree includes the mana reservation nodes on the far left (Sovereignty Notable), and these nodes plus Enlighten Supports, plus another small cluster with mana reservation, should enable adding Zealotry Aura. The level of Enlighten Support you need will depend on the tier of your Helm Implicit. You can also look for a mana reservation cluster with increased effect if you're just a bit short.

The final tree also adds another Physical Damage Large Cluster, to take advantage of the strong notables: Force Multiplier, Battle-Hardened, and Iron Breaker, and to create room for more Medium/Small Clusters.

The best way to improve your movement speed (besides a Mageblood, of course) is to get Onslaught/Tailwind/Elusive boots, but this almost certainly means sacrificing Spell Suppression.
You can get Suppression back from the passives near Magebane if you have that version of the Impossible Escape.
O/T/E boots also definitely means sacrificing Brittle Ground, which means you will need a Hatred Crit Chance Watcher's Eye and likely a Diamond Flask to compensate.
A Shaper or Hunter Chest with +Spell Critical Strike Chance can be good as well.

Alternate quality gems can also provide some nice incremental upgrades.

The best alternate quality gems are:
1. Anomalous Assassin's Mark (so good, it's even worth getting an enhance support for it)
2. Anomalous Herald of Purity (taunting = tanking)
3. Anomalous Defiance Banner (straight upgrade)
4. Anomalous Golems (buff effect is obviously better than the useless default, but still not that impactful, it's probably better to save your currency for the occultist swap)
5. Divergent/Anomalous Inspiration (divergent is great for mana issues, and Anomalous isn't much of a bonus but the default is useless)
6. Divergent Power Charge on Critical (occultist only, and only if you are still crit capped without the default bonus)
7. Divergent Bonechill (straight upgrade, but very small)
8. Anomalous Arcane Surge (more damage on vortex is basically useless since we rely on the baseline chilled ground effect, so might as well get more mana regen, but the numbers aren't impressive)
9. Divergent Frost Bomb (might as well since default is worthless)
10. Divergent Determination (extremely small upgrade)
11. Divergent Hatred (pure luxury, unless you're target farming chilled ground maps)

The End Game

To improve the build beyond this point, I recommend choosing to either...

Go something like the extremely tanky route that I laid out in my Blade Vortex vs. Uber Pinnacles Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWd7PsxAkEw
Ditch Spell Suppression and pump Damage. It's definitely possible to get high enough DPS to essentially trivialize the Uber Pinnacles, even to the point where you can skip the generally skippable immunity phases.

One of the best items for pure DPS is Heatshiver, which grants a massive amount of fire damage if you can still do enough cold damage to reliably freeze enemies. Be wary of adding this item to the build too soon, as it provides much less damage than other options if you're NOT freezing your targets

This can be further enhanced by adding Elemental Weakness through additional curse mods on body armour and Herald of Ash with the extra reservation efficiency from Enlighten Supports.

Another option for an additional curse is available if you can afford an Explode Chest and/or an Oriath's End flask. Then, you can spec out of Profane Bloom and get Unholy Authority instead.

In my opinion, with the overall nerfs to defenses in 3.19 and 3.21, something closer to a Glass Cannon is looking more and more attractive as a top-end loadout than in previous patches.

I'll post more POBs with various end-game loadouts very soon, but I wanted to leave this guide as a well-rounded jumping off point for further specialization/investment.

Conclusion + Final Endorsement
I stand firmly by this build.

I've played a version of it pretty much every league since Heist.

I was playing BV when it was still OP in Ritual League, but also when it was still heavily nerfed in Scourge League, and when the 50% damage buff was announced in patch 3.17, I knew I had to make a guide to let people know that their beloved BV was all the way back.

I've gotten tons of great feedback from people who have followed my guides from previous leagues, and have pretty much always been able to diagnose the issue for anyone who was having trouble getting it to work.

I hope if you try it, you enjoy it as much as I have.

Much Love <3

Last edited by Chronic_Painless on Apr 7, 2023, 10:00:44 AM
Last bumped on May 28, 2023, 2:16:27 AM
league started this last league, it was a great time! Can definitely vouch for this build.
League started it last league as well. It is an extremely fun build and fulfills its promises. And the pob offers great detailed notes :)
Great and detailed guide man, thank you ! I'm looking for a 3.20 starter so wandering, can you do all High End content with this build? Any changes coming with 3.20 ? Thank you again for the build !
Khalline wrote:
Great and detailed guide man, thank you ! I'm looking for a 3.20 starter so wandering, can you do all High End content with this build? Any changes coming with 3.20 ? Thank you again for the build !

I've taken down Wave 30 Simulacrum and the Uber Pinnacles every league since they've each existed, so I'd say it most definitely can. The last time I tried deep delving I think I killed an Aul around 700 depth in patch 3.17 before I got tired of delve; not sure how much deeper I could've gone.

The changes for 3.20 (at least based on what we know from the patch notes) have already been incorporated into the guide, but I'll definitely have more updates as the league economy evolves and new discoveries are made.

I've taken down Wave 30 Simulacrum and the Uber Pinnacles every league since they've each existed, so I'd say it most definitely can. The last time I tried deep delving I think I killed an Aul around 700 depth in patch 3.17 before I got tired of delve; not sure how much deeper I could've gone.

The changes for 3.20 (at least based on what we know from the patch notes) have already been incorporated into the guide, but I'll definitely have more updates as the league economy evolves and new discoveries are made.

Thank you for your answer, will give it a try !
Thinking about this build for 3.20, if I don't quit early.
sorry, i want to know if i can start with this and end up doing the uber bosses, always start with builds that i cant even push to kill ubers. just normals. i can kill uber bosses with this? and how many divines i have to spent on that? ty.
Morfogore1001 wrote:
sorry, i want to know if i can start with this and end up doing the uber bosses, always start with builds that i cant even push to kill ubers. just normals. i can kill uber bosses with this? and how many divines i have to spent on that? ty.

In Sentinel League, I took down the Ubers with this build by making it super tanky, I think it cost about 50ex at the time.

In LOK, I decided to try to take them down as more of a glass cannon style by ditching spell suppression and just pumping my damage, and was able to get them on about 60 divines for all 7. I got everyone but Uber Uber Elder for around 40, but that fight is kryptonite to glass cannons with the guaranteed portal phases that you can't do anything to speed up, so it took a little more oomph.

I also have the skills of a potato when it comes to reading attacks and actually dodging things, so I need an extra-strength build to compensate. A player of Ben_'s caliber could probably do it on less than a quarter of that investment.
ok thats fair for me, ty a lot and i have my league starter now, TY a lot

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