[3.20] ifnjeff's Echosphere Inquisitor | Plume of Pursuit Science Project takes down the Feared

Introduction and Disclaimer

At its core, the build is a Spell Echo Hydrosphere Inquisitor, taking full advantage of Plume of Pursuit. The ridiculous sequence of items and mechanics and the satisfying synergy between their upsides and drawbacks are what make it neat.

Fair warning, the build tends toward meme territory. It's not particularly fast or smooth. It's not particularly tanky. It would probably struggle on a budget. However, it does combine an implausible assortment of items and mechanics into a miraculously functional build, capable of handling the most difficult endgame content. For some (myself included), that's what makes things interesting.

Consider this more of a showcase than a guide. Feel free to take inspiration from the build's mechanics and synergies. Just be aware that no thought has been put towards making the build widely accessible or reasonable to level and progress gradually. Everything here is presented in its final form.

If you prefer video format, check out the Deep Dive and Showcase I put together.

Build Concept

This build is a bit of a science project so prepare for a journey of an explanation. I think it's a worthwhile journey, but I've included a TLDR below for the faint of heart.

Abusing the Final Repeat

The crux of the build is something I've been trying to build around for a while. The Plume of Pursuit helmet presents an interesting tradeoff. It mandates the use of Spell Echo and cripples the damage of your initial cast in exchange for a guaranteed critical on your final repeat. In isolation this is unimpressive as Spell Echo doesn't come anywhere near doubling your cast speed and has a built in 10% less damage multiplier. In order to make this work for us, we'll need to exploit that guaranteed critical.

To make the most of Plume of Pursuit's upside, we need to find a skill whose damage uptime isn't linked to the number of casts per second. This would make the crippled first cast an irrelevant loss, as our full DPS could be based on the final repeat.

One archetype that comes to mind is ignite, because only the highest damage ignite applies to a target. Critical hits are guaranteed to ignite, but they don't affect the ignite damage unless you take the Perfect Agony keystone, applying 50% of your critical strike multiplier to damage over time. As we'll see shortly, we can get lots of critical strike multiplier, so there is some potential there but we're looking elsewhere with this build.

Instead, we are looking for skills that deal damage over a duration, and which don't benefit from having multiple casts active at once. It's also important that the damage dealt over that duration inherits the properties of the final repeat. Blade Vortex used to behave this way, but that interaction was patched in 3.13.1e. As far as I can tell, one of the only remaining skills that behaves this way (and can be supported by Spell Echo) is Hydrosphere. We'll cover the details of Hydrosphere's behaviour later, for now know that the pulses inherit the properties of the final repeat, so they benefit fully from Plume of Pursuit.

Now that we have consistent damage uptime based on our final repeat, we can start exploiting it. First of all, we can use Divergent Spell Echo, which makes it a 12% more damage multiplier, up from the 10% less damage of the default gem.

We are also looking for large sources of critical strike multiplier. The quintessential item to accomplish that is Marylene's Fallacy, which grants us culling strike (effectively 11% more damage) and an enormous +288% multiplier for critical hits. Since our final repeat is guaranteed to critically hit, we can ignore the significant downside of nearly halving our critical strike chance.

Sanctum League introduced a new item which synergizes perfectly with our setup so far. The Winds of Fate staff has a handful of major upsides and drawbacks. We get +100% critical strike multiplier, as well as incredibly high base damage which we can make use of with Battlemage as an Inquisitor. Hydrosphere deals base physical damage and converts to cold/lightning, so the added physical damage synergizes perfectly. With Hydrosphere's 110% effectiveness of added damage, this more than doubles our base damage.

Thanks to our choices elsewhere, we get to ignore all of the potential downsides of the item as well. The staff finishes the job in crippling our initial cast, which now deals no damage, but we are focused on the final repeat anyways. Having our critical strike chance capped at 50% doesn't matter as Plume of Pursuit ignores the chance.

The damage conversion may be worrying at first, as it would make damage scaling difficult, but damage conversion is calculated in two steps. Conversion granted by skill/support gems is considered first, scaling down so that the amount converted does not exceed 100%. Conversion from other sources (passives, gear, etc) is calculated second, scaling down so that the amount converted does not exceed what remains from the first step. Since Hydrosphere has 100% of physical converted to cold/lightning, the conversion on The Winds of Fate does nothing.

Enabling Hydrosphere

Hydrosphere has a number of interesting mechanics, some of which enable this build, and one which presents a major obstacle. Let's start with the good news.

Hydrosphere deals damage at a few distinct moments. While clearing, most of our damage comes from the pulses caused by creating/moving the sphere. Each pulse damages any drenched enemy in a massive area (screen-wide with our area scaling). The sphere constantly drenches enemies around it and drenches any enemy it passes through when moved. This means our first cast will move the sphere, drenching enemies on the way (and then pulse, dealing no damage). Our repeat cast will "move" the sphere in place, damaging anyone the first cast moved through.

For single target, the bulk of our damage is going to come from the regular pulses which occur while the sphere is afflicted by an ailment. By default the skill pulses every 0.4 seconds, but this can be increased through pulse frequency. The two sources of pulse frequency are 10% from gem quality and 30% from a helmet enchantment. This stat is an additive multiplier to our DPS, so it's very important to get both for 40% more damage. With Ashes of the Stars, we could push to a total of 55%, but losing nearly 300% critical strike multiplier and culling strike makes it a downgrade overall.

For the ailment to enable the pulses, we can either shock or freeze the sphere, though I'd very much prefer to freeze it for a few reasons. Damage scaling options are more plentiful for cold conversion builds (Hatred, Taste of Hate, etc), Hydrosphere defaults to cold conversion when not afflicted with an ailment, and freeze offers nice defensive benefits over shock. Regardless of our choice though, ailment sources which apply to nearby enemies (proliferation, Vessel of Vinktar, etc) don't affect Hydrosphere, so we have to apply it with a hit. Ailment properties are based on the damage of the hit, so we'll have to apply them with the final repeat of a spell thanks to Plume of Pursuit and The Winds of Fate.

The major obstacle for this build came in 3.17.0, when Hydrosphere was given a 1 second cooldown before it can be hit again. For almost any spell, the first cast will hit before the repeat, dealing 0 damage, applying no ailment, and leaving the sphere on cooldown when the repeat arrives. There are a few skills that hit multiple times over a duration like Firestorm, but hits from the initial cast are interwoven with hits from the repeat cast so it would be a coin flip once the cooldown elapses. Thankfully, there is one spell whose mechanics allow only the repeat cast to hit a particular region, Wave of Conviction.

Wave of Conviction can only have one wave active at a time, so the repeat cast will cut the first wave short and continue to the full distance itself. The idea is to place Hydrosphere in the margin where the repeat will hit but the initial cast won't. In order to widen the margin, we can increase cast speed (cutting the wave short sooner) or increase skill effect duration (letting the repeat wave travel further). Increased area of effect also extends the wave range, but it extends both the initial cast and the repeat cast, so it moves the margin further away and makes it wider.

Wave of Conviction deals base physical damage, so it can benefit from our Battlemage synergy in overcoming Hydrosphere's ailment threshold. When we revisit shocking or freezing the sphere though, we have another problem. Wave of Conviction converts 25% to lightning and 25% to fire, leaving room for The Winds of Fate to perform random conversion. We definitely want to avoid random conversion as Hydrosphere will split its damage between lightning and cold if both ailments are applied. We could add Physical to Lightning Support to complete the lightning conversion for shock, but we'd prefer to freeze as mentioned previously.

With lightning conversion built into the gem, the only way to ensure that Wave of Conviction will not shock is to take Avatar of Fire. With Hydrosphere fully converted to cold through gem conversion, Avatar of Fire's physical-to-fire conversion won't apply, but its cold-to-fire conversion will, so doing this presents the split damage issue again. We can complete that conversion with Cold to Fire Support, which also serves as a 29% more damage support with cold as extra fire.

One problem remains, fire damage can't shock but it also can't freeze. For that we need the final piece of the puzzle. Expedition's End lets our fire damage freeze, and has the additional benefits of potentially doubling the freeze duration and chilling nearby enemies.

Improving Gameplay Flow

At this point, the build's playstyle feels a bit cumbersome. Plume of Pursuit gives us at least 20% reduced cast speed, which we can offset with passive points. That leaves us with base cast speed, relying on the second repeat of each cast to drag a moderate-sized area across the screen, while pulling off this Wave of Conviction margin trick every 6-8 seconds. Both Hydrosphere and Wave of Conviction also have significant mana costs as they'll both be 6-linked, but we'd like to reserve mana for auras and our mana regeneration isn't great. So for quality of life, we'd really like a bunch of attack speed, area of effect, and mana cost reduction. The solution is one of the most underused mechanics, but it's right at our fingertips and fits our situation well.

Fanaticism is a buff exclusive to Inquisitor which grants 75% more cast speed, 75% increased area of effect, and 75% reduced mana cost, everything we wanted. Since we're already taking Instruments of Virtue for Battlemage, Instruments of Zeal is easy to pick up. The big downside that prevents Fanaticism from seeing use is that the method of acquiring it (attacking at least once each second) gets in the way of benefiting from it (self-casting spells with our boosted cast speed). In this case, we don't actually care about the cast speed for our DPS, so we aren't losing anything by weaving in some quick attacks (quicker than you'd expect, more on that below) between our casts to move the sphere or apply freeze.

The natural approach to upkeep Fanaticism is to use an attack-based movement skill. We are using a staff, so our only option would be leap slam, but we would have to sacrifice a lot to get enough attack speed (with our slow staff) for that to feel reasonable. Even with high attack speed, the animation and required movement would be fairly chaotic and occasionally conflict with our casts. Instead, we can make use of an interesting property of channelling skills and animation cancelling.

For the purpose of Instruments of Zeal and other mechanics like it, the moment when "you attack" is the moment you spend the upfront mana cost and begin the animation, not when you conclude the animation or hit an enemy. With any attack skill, we can use the ability and immediately issue a move command to cancel the animation, imposing a miniscule interruption to our movement while still having "attacked". While that would be very difficult to perform smoothly and reliably, channelling skills are unique in that they will cancel their own animation as soon as you release the key to use them. Any channelling attack will work, but the best for this approach is Cyclone.

Cyclone has the cheapest mana cost, and has the benefit of continuing movement if the key is held too long. If your keyboard software allows it, you can configure the key to register the press and release immediately instead of waiting for you to physically release the key. One thing to be careful of is not interrupting Spell Echo's repeat by issuing the attack command before the repeat begins. This is obvious when it happens as the Hydrosphere will deal no damage.

My approach to the playstyle is to tap space (my Cyclone hotkey) slightly more than once a second, and to tap it swiftly before each spell cast, resetting the cadence. Every 6-8 seconds when the freeze is expiring I'll combine the casts, so I would tap Cyclone, cast Hydrosphere at mid-long range, and cast Wave of Conviction, all back to back. With this much cast speed, I can alternatively do a trick by tapping Cyclone, casting Wave of Conviction ahead, and casting Hydrosphere in the same direction to pull it from behind through the second wave as it propagates.

Leaving enough mana unreserved to be able to cast one full-cost Hydrosphere for the small gaps in Fanaticism when we miss a Cyclone is still sensible. Generally though, this solves our mana sustain, greatly increases our screen coverage, improves responsiveness, and brings the Wave of Conviction margin closer to the character.

Other Mundane Details

With the mechanics of the build out of the way, what remains is ordinary offense and defense scaling. We are able to include a fair number of auras due to a reduced reservation helmet enchantment and aura passives. Thanks to the damage conversion chain (physical to cold to fire) and the fact that all of our base damage is physical, we can benefit from damage scaling to any of those types and enjoy damage multiplication from "gain as extra" modifiers. Herald of Ash, Herald of Purity, and Hatred all fit the bill.

As an Inquisitor, we can lean into Pious Path which doubles our life regeneration onto our energy shield. Using Corrupted Soul (granted by Glorious Vanity with Doryani) splits damage taken between life and energy shield so we always benefit from both types of regeneration at once. Since we have a good deal of regeneration, we can add Petrified Blood to enable Pain Attunement and shift some auras onto our life pool to make room for its mana reservation.

To round out the defenses, a fair amount of armour can be gained through a combination of Determination, flasks, Watcher's Eye, and Molten Shell. Elemental ailments can be nullified with Stormshroud and chance to avoid shock on boot implicits and an abyss jewel. Finally, Forbidden Flame and Flesh jewels can be used to acquire either Radiant Faith (about 50% more armour), Bastion of Hope (conditional block and stun avoidance), or Searing Purity (chaos defense without resists). The Path of Building link below includes an alternate tree for Bastion of Hope which skips Unwavering Stance in favour of some extra block nodes.


I'm abusing the fact that Hydrosphere's pulses inherit the damage properties of the most recent cast. Using Plume of Pursuit with Divergent Spell Echo means the pulses always crit, so I can use Marylene's Fallacy and the new The Winds of Fate staff for around 550% crit multi with no further investment. Going Inquisitor for Battlemage doubles Hydrosphere's base damage thanks to the staff's huge numbers. The 1 second cooldown recently added to Hydrosphere makes it tough to apply an ailment with Spell Echo, so I use some ridiculous Wave of Conviction tech which lets only the repeat hit the sphere. I'm using Avatar of Fire and Expedition's End to freeze the sphere and convert all of my damage from physical to cold to fire, granting access to lots of good damage scaling and preventing Wave of Conviction from shocking the sphere. Finally, I'm using instant cyclone between hydrosphere movements to maintain Fanaticism for improved coverage, mana sustain, and speed. Typical hybrid Inquisitor tools for regen-centric defense round the build out.


3.20 Sanctum League

80% The Feared Invitation: https://youtu.be/00DZBEAOt2s
80% Elderslayers Invitation: https://youtu.be/x4hkeQKBXbk
T16 Veritania Map: https://youtu.be/wE2za30E90k

Character Showcase






Gem Links

6L Hydrosphere

6L Wave of Conviction

4L Mana Auras (Helmet)

3L Life Auras

1L Gems

Last edited by ifnjeff on Mar 9, 2023, 7:09:04 PM
Last bumped on Aug 22, 2023, 7:59:09 PM
This is a build i won't try because it doesn't match my playstyle, but damn i do need to comment on this one: this is one amazing interaction you tought of.

It was a joy to read the interactions and the choices made based on those.

Congrats on pulling this off and gluing all these interactions together, this looks absolutely AMAZING.
Meitzen wrote:
This is a build i won't try because it doesn't match my playstyle, but damn i do need to comment on this one: this is one amazing interaction you tought of.

It certainly won't be taking over the meta any time soon. Not top tier in terms of performance/gameplay, but probably most satisfying build from a design/mechanics perspective. I appreciate the kind words.
The most convoluted build I've ever seen. Hat off to you sir!
Great build! Congrats on being build of the week!
Cool, but softcore not interesting, gl ss.
SP33D Always in my veins...
congrats on build of the week. Looks sweet.

Any mental gymnastics could do to plug in original sin with this and drop avatar of fire? Maybe take advantage of phys to cold implicit on gloves and watchers eye?

Dont know if expeditions end would still make wave of conviction freeze the hydrosphere
fanatiscm pog
Easy build of the week, even of the month, for sure in Mathil build making terriotory! Chest is 20 div so its very expensive, nothing come without price
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