[3.21] Reflect Ballista Pathfinder - aka RAT Nuke 3.0

3.24 Update: Don't think i'm going to be updating this build anymore. It's a good existing base for other people to build onto but I think it has more or less hit its plateau unless someone else finds a new interaction to fold in. As it is, it's a well rounded build that is probably one of the best rare mob deleters in the game (perfect for post-3.23 essence farming). The return of tattoos is nice, I don't think I would replace all my strength with totem life or 100% knockback but it can be nice if you swapped out other parts of the build. Tides of Time is basically The Traitor in a belt, allowing non-Pathfinders to use this build a lot more easily. Thanks for having checked the guide out.

Update: After some testing, I have concluded that Sniper's Mark is not really responsible for the portion of damage I thought it was (unless you are among multiple mobs). For the sake of your FPS, i'd recommend switching to Punishment for bossing. I have also tested Vengeant Cascade even without Sniper's Mark and it is not that big of a DPS boost compared to a third curse. I still clear Maven in under 4 minutes and Exarch w/o life mods in under 2 minutes without Sniper's Mark

No this isn’t that exploding totems build. This is an update to my 3.11 Reflect Ballista guide which is really just an update to Russellhentz’s Build of the Week six years ago. Jousis also made a video about it but we don’t really use that many mechanics from his version.

What the hell is RAT Tactical Nuke?

We use ballista (used to be known as Ranged Attack Totems or RAT) to shoot a billion arrows a second, sucking up mobs using reverse knockback, igniting a bunch thus making your totems hit themselves to proc Torcoak Step reflect damage (used to be a Chieftain ascendancy) to do a bunch of damage. It used to look like a bomb going off but now its more like a collapsing neutron star.

I’ve been gradually updating this build over the leagues but nothing ever really solved the one problem it had, a lack of consistent recovery. The defenses and ascendancy flexibility got better when I changed to a permaflask setup but it was still occasionally dying to damage over time in situations where I couldn’t use my life gain on hit setup. 3.21 finally solved this by introducing the reworked Master Surgeon node for the new Pathfinder. It requires a bit of finagling with constant life flask button pressing but it has finally become the all-rounder build I always wanted it to be.



+ Has ample tankiness with a bunch of defensive layers and good regen. Using the most stripped down endgame setup, the build has 30k armor, 10k evasion, 4 endurance charges, 100% spell suppress, ruby/topaz/sapphire permaflask, 5% hits taken by totems, totem taunt, blind, 2k life regen per second from a life flask, and decent base life.

+ 100% curse effect reduction through flask. 100% ele ailment, stun, and bleed avoidance after getting a Replica Shroud of the Lightless

+ Cheap to start up and comparatively cheap (less than 10 divines in Crucible league) to reach near-BiS in all slots. All it really needs is a level 21 Ballista Totem support or cheap Shako, Eye of Innocence, Quill Rain, and Torchoak Step to easily run through T16s.

+ A very serviceable bosser with high damage and decent uptime. Can comfortably kill all ubers except Sirus because he teleports way too damn much. 7/7 Cleared

+ Ludicrous damage in groups of mobs which makes it perfect for a lot of dangerous or tanky mechanics like Crucible, Essence, Metamorph, Harvest, etc. I can instantly delete double 6-essence monsters and empowered metamorphs. It takes seconds to finish full channel Crucibles.

+ It’s a totem build. You can set em and forget em while you run around dodging stuff or looting stuff.

+ Most importantly, it’s novel to play. It’s a weird niche gimmick that can only exist in a game like Path of Exile. Builds like this existing is why I like this game so much.


- First and foremost, it is BLINDING. Sensitive eyes beware. Some boss fights will have the entire arena covered in projectiles.

- It is insanely LAGGY at times and in general, this is not a build for weak computers. The build absolutely has a learning curve to get to a smooth-ish mapping experience.

- Middling clear speed. The damage is great but only once Torchoak Step actually hits them (despite the AoE buff in 3.21, it’s still not that large)

- HC usable but not recommended. You’re in the middle of mob packs a lot.

- Not a league starter or SSF friendly. At the minimum it requires three uniques, one of which will likely not exist in the first few hours of the league

- It caps out relatively quickly. You can do most content in the game with this build but you can’t scale it that much higher even with infinite investment since almost all the power is from a bunch of uniques.

- Compared to a lot of other builds, the BiS items are in pretty limited supply. They’re cheap because no one wants them but because no one wants them, no one is making them. Most of the BiS items are double corrupts and one of them is Forbidden Shako which is complete RNG.

This sounds like a lot of cons but I just want to be upfront about this build. It’s clunky, it’s gimmick-y, it can be very fun to run but it is hard to look at.



Basic T16

Uber Maven

Uber Exaerch w/o Sniper's Mark


Path of Building

Generic Endgame Setup - https://pobb.in/uv6P01QJDiKY

My Character @ About 3 Weeks After League Start - https://pobb.in/QYsOm9rRbOEO

My Finished 3.21 Character (25ish divines? It really isn't that much better, I just had nothing else to spend money on) - https://pobb.in/3HYpAfalJ2TH


Main Mechanics

RAT Nuke

Torchoak Step provides all of our base damage. Since all the damage comes from the totem reflect, the only ways to scale damage are Totem Life, Attack Speed, Resistance Reduction (penetration does not work, not sure why the original RAT Nuke said it does), and other effects that are some form of Increased Damage Taken such as Covered in Ash.

The way we proc our totem reflect is from the self-damage from Eye of Innocence when we ignite a monster which means maintaining a 100% chance to hit and 100% ignite chance is key. We get this primarily from a max roll chance to ignite, freeze, shock flask and flask effect. It's also important that you get enough fire damage so you can ignite. This might seem like you only need the tiniest bit of fire damage but it can go small enough that it actually hits 0, making your hits not ignite sometimes. You can check this in the skill hit damage section of your Galvanic Arrow calc on Path of Building. If it's 0 to 1, you need more fire damage. You want to hit 1 to 2 or anything higher. It's also for this reason that we can't do Simulacrums because the reduced damage from delirious brings our damage too low to ignite. If you want to do deli maps, 60% is a comfortable area.

The majority of our reflect damage will be scaling totem life and the best way to have high totem life is to start with a high level totem gem. BiS for the build is a L35 Ballista Totem Shako but a corrupted L21 works perfectly fine for most non-pinnacle content.

The other main component of our damage is attack speed and more projectiles. The best attack speed bow in the game by a mile is Quill Rain. You can use a 6L Quill Rain with Galvanic Arrow + Barrage + Faster Attacks + GMP + Multiple Totem + L21 Ballista Totem before you get a usable Shako.

Sniper’s Mark is a remarkable addition. The extra projectiles from the mark proc Galvanic Arrow cones due to the way Barrage support works. So in theory we’re adding 5 additional hits (L21 Sniper's Mark) PER projectile. I refuse to slow down footage in a video editor to actually confirm this because GGG can’t just put in a freaking training dummy, but it certainly feels like that’s what is happening. After testing this during Crucible, I believe Sniper's Mark may not be adding as much damage as I believe it to be. I recommend testing using another third curse like Punishment.

The last layer of damage is reducing monsters’ resistances. Two of the easiest ways of getting a substantial amount of exposure (none of that rinky dink 10% exposure on hit) is Elemental Equilibrium or Avatar of the Veil’s exposure. EE requires you deal no fire damage though so you ignite with Stormfire. Small benefit of this is that few builds use Stormfire so you can get a sweet double corrupt for it pretty cheaply. I much prefer Avatar of the Veil though, which frees up a ring and gives you 50% ele avoid; it’s also very cheap.

Knockback is important because the radius for the totem reflect is incredibly tiny (GGG please buff this again). Empire's Grasp allows us to vacuum everything we hit with reverse knockback. The Siege ensures that every hit is a knockback.

Calculating Damage

Example calculation for base damage on a Non-Shako setup

4850 (Level 21 Ballista Totem w/ 2.95x Totem Life)
*7 (Active Totems)
*11 (Projectiles w/ GMP. You won’t have GMP on a Shako setup)
*2 (Galvanic Arrow + Barrage doubles your hits per proj)
*3 (Attacks per second)

*# (Number of monsters in the immediate AoE)

That is 2.2m base damage against exactly one monster with the most basic gear. This is damage at the starting point.


We run a pretty standard package of defenses using Determination, Grace, and Molten Shell but with a ton of extra goodies. Prior to Replica Shroud of the Lightless you can pretty much run anything. Kaom’s Heart for a bunch of life, Brass Dome for armour and max res, a standard rare chest with eldritch implicits and resistances.

This is amazing for this build. For one, we get to use the % increased armour if you haven’t killed anything because we’re a totem build so off this chest alone we get upwards of 180% increased global armour. You can reasonably get around 150 life through abyss jewels but with the added benefit of using the new mastery “15% increased maximum life if your body armour has no life modifiers." You also want to pick up taunt/blind on hit, any % is fine because your totems hit dozens of times a second. Then you get whatever you want; ele avoidance, bleed/poison avoidance, stun avoidance, chaos resistance (pricey), attack speed.

I personally chose bleed, ignite/shock (abyss jewels only has freeze avoidance, not chill), and stun avoidance.


Prior to 3.21, the build had a lot of ascendancy flexibility with The Traitor but now the best choice is Pathfinder. The most important effect by far is the max roll 34% increased Freeze, Shock, and Ignite during effect affix, preferably on any of the elemental flasks because they have the best uptime and thus can use Reduced Duration/Increase Effect. Another important QoL flask is Quartz Flask, due to the way the build plays you want to be able to run through groups of mobs without getting blocked. There are a lot of useful affixes but my favorites are more armour to hit max Molten Shell barrier, curse effect reduction, and attack speed.

I haven't tried running Taste of Hate but I know phys to ele conversion is pretty popular on Pathfinders this league.

Our hero of 3.21, a mere life flask. The new Master Surgeon is sweet, allowing our life flasks to constantly recover life and basically act like constant regeneration. This helps our survivability against damage over time and many of the smaller hits we will take during mapping. Eternal Life Flask requires more button pressing but a higher amount recovered per second. Divine Life Flask is a lot more chill on button pressing and has a decent amount more uptime but worse recovery. Either way you want as high a % on quality.

Use PoB and hover over the flasks to see their flask uptime. You generally want to hit 100% average, but this uses the 50% chance to not use charges from Master Alchemist. During bossing your life flask will occasionally drop for a second or two before picking back up.

Passive Tree Breakdown

I don’t think there is too much to explain here, most of it is life or totem life. One thing to note is that you absolutely need the flask mastery Life Flasks gain 1 charge every 3 seconds, you will not be able to maintain your life flasks otherwise.

We take the ele avoid cluster paired with Avatar of the Veil forbidden jewels to hit 70% avoid for ignite/shock and 100% for chill/freeze. You can save the two points by just getting ignite/shock avoid on your abyssal jewels.

We get endurance charges from Enduring Cry using the Warcries have a minimum of 10 power mastery and Call to Arms. The Natural Authority node also gives us some more inc damage taken, which is hard to come by on the tree. Resolute Technique since again, we don't care about generic damage or crits. Sleepless Sentries on the totem cluster gives us onslaught on demand. One single reservation efficiency node next to Sovereignty allows us to run Anomalous Dread Banner which grants more evade chance and even a bit of generic 2% less damage taken. This is until you can afford a Level 4 Enlighten to which you can pick up a second reservation node to run Petrified Blood.

Potentially controversial but I much prefer the one point saved on getting Surveillance totem node from the left rather than spend an extra point getting 8% attack speed. This build isn’t really lacking in damage and you get most of your survivability from the tree.


Skill Gems

Main Setup


Galvanic Arrow + Barrage Support + Faster Attacks + GMP + Ballista Totems + Multiple Totems

You can easily find a L21 Ballista Totem for cheap, that extra level does a lot. I find Galvanic Arrow to be way better than Blast Rain and any other alternative. It doubles our hits using Barrage Support, the animation is short and fast, and it won't brick your graphic card. Leave Galvanic Arrow at level 3 to minimize the mana cost, it gains a small bit of AoE at level 3.


Galvanic Arrow + Barrage Support + Faster Attacks + Multiple Totems

I’m assuming it's a Shako with just Ballista Totem as a support. You can obviously get one with any of the above gems or other useful stuff like Combustion or Culling Strike. Faster Attacks is better than GMP because Barrage support slows down your attack speed based on how many projectiles you have. I also think it makes the animation a bit snappier.


Standard defensive package as always. 40k armor/10k evasion feels pretty comfortable in maps, I don’t even feel threatened most of the time except for the big crucible baddies. You want to be around 38k pre-Molten Shell buff at 8 ballista out (Ironwood gives us armour per ballista out) to get the maximum barrier.

This is basically all you need and will use up until level 95 where you can start exploring optional reservations with more mana reservation efficiency.

Anomalous Dread Banner
It’s a super cheap defensive option that gives you a bit more evasion (via less enemy accuracy) and also a 2% less damage taken (or 4% with Enhance) from nearby mobs which is actually more impactful than one might think. You only need to take one more reservation node to activate this.

Aspect of the Spider
Easy to craft onto your quiver or ring, slows down some tougher enemies and gives you more ‘damage taken’ but it is a lot of reservation to take mostly just for damage. Also note that since we already take a decent amount of “increased damage taken” effects, each instance of it becomes less effective overall.

Petrified Blood/Low Life Shenanigans
Petrified Blood is a pretty substantial defensive layer, albeit at an even higher reservation cost (likely will need to use a level 3/4 Enlighten). There is also a PF-specific combo of Petrified Blood, reserving half your life with another aura, Burden of Truth, and using low life flasks for significantly improved recovery. You do give up more one shot defenses for better recovery and I already think the recovery is pretty good. Nonetheless, it’s worth exploring, especially if you mostly just do mapping.

Utility + Other Gems

Enduring Cry
Binding Enduring Cry to LMB (this still allows you to move around) while using Call to Arms for instant warcries and the mastery Warcries have a minimum of 10 power gives us permanent uptime on 4 endurance charges. I would still try to cap resistances without them because there will be times where you’re unprepared and without the charges.

Divergent Purifying Flame + Enhance
Started using Divergent Purifying Flame this league and it’s pretty amazing for damage. Consecrated Ground you apply from Purifying Flame applies 5% increased damage taken which can be scaled up to 12% with Level 4 Enhance. You can even get a helm enchantment that increases that by another 9%

Anomalous Flame Dash
My movement tech of choice, it’s fast to cast with the small amounts of cast speed you passively get and it goes far. The anomalous version is nice to connect to your Enhance setup because it gives extra travel distance.

CWDT + Anomalous Molten Shell
Basic CWDT setup for armour using builds. I use Anomalous Molten Shell because it has a lower threshold for hitting the maximum barrier amount (15% of armour to hit the 5k barrier).

I connect nearly everything to Lifetap where I can. It makes using utility and movement skills much more smooth and consistent since you will be using almost all of your mana summoning ballista. It even gives a bit of extra flask recovery!

Vaal Arctic Armour
This can be pretty neat, allowing you to pop it during stuff like Maven’s memory game and other hard hitting stuff. Like I stated before though, I am incredibly lazy and don’t like engaging in active defense too much.

Vaal Haste
More attacks, more speed. Basically it.

Vaal Breach
This is a bit of a meme but it can add a ton of damage. The main problem is that the soul cost is so high that it's not really feasible to use in the only fights where it would matter, particularly pinnacle bosses. Also the amount of monsters that spawn being hit by your reflect ballista makes it too laggy for the already dangerous fights.


These mostly won’t be from gems but I think it’s important to cover them here. Curses are a huge part of how you deal damage with this build and you apply them via gear. Anointing Whispers of Doom is an ASAP goal once you hit the endgame.

In order of importance:
Flammability > Elemental Weakness > Punishment

Socket Colors

You will likely have to dance around with socket colors or give up a slot (probably either of the Vaal skills) so learn all the arcane ways to get the colors you need, especially on corrupted gear. Tainted Chromatics, bulk Vaal Orbs, and jumping back and forth between socket crafts are your friends here.



Leveling Build

I would not league start with this build, pick any PF build you want and swap over once you get the gear. It is really important you get all of the gear first because the build can be completely unusable without certain pieces of it. Also note the level requirements, Stormfire can only be used at 80.

A build that easily scales off attack speed and projectiles without too much investment in specific gear is Toxic Rain. Also makes for a great heister.

I recommend watching a guide to twink leveling which makes going through the campaign a lot smoother.


Entirely self-explanatory. Pick all the generic flask nodes or look at the PoB.




Mid Game

Kaom’s Heart/The Brass Dome/Rare Chest
Anything works as long as you are hitting your resistance caps and getting a decent amount of armour to pump up your Molten Shell barrier.

Viridi’s Veil
A nice budget helmet for the mid-game. You can buy or alt spam a magic flammability ring. Gives you a bunch of resistance, immunity to critical damage (use Kaom’s in this instance), opens up a flask affix if you want the hexproof, and makes damage taken unlucky.

You can use this and EE prior to getting Avatar of the Veil forbidden jewels. Early availability will be pretty limited for forbidden jewels.

Flammability Ring
On top of the negative resistance, Flammability gives +25% to ignite. Otherwise you’re likely picking up the two ignite nodes next to EE. A huge qol improvement is getting -mana cost so you aren’t always waiting for mana regen.

Stygian Vise
I’ve always lucked into decent flask belts but with PF, the stats aren’t super necessary, just nice to have for smoother uptime. Use this to fix any resistance holes, likely lightning res after you swap off Stormfire.

Max life and totem life are king. Take whatever else you need. End game goals are propping up your chaos resistance a bit more or getting attack speed

Late Game and Chase

Forbidden Shako
The crown jewel and no. 1 thing you should be looking out for. Be very wary of random combinations that can just brick the build including stuff like trap supports or things that turn off your ignite like void manipulation or elemental focus.

I always do a quick test on a tabula. I’ve discovered weird stuff like Summon Phantasm just breaking Barrage support for some reason.

Rain of Splinters and Polaric Devesatation
Basic upgrades giving you more projectiles and more damage.

Abyss Jewels
These will mostly be avoidance jewels with some life and the armour if you haven’t killed anything affix. Try to find ones that have a bit of overlap like a bit of stun avoid and bleed avoid or a jewel that can cover two elemental ailments to open up your other slots.

One of the big benefits of a build using primarily cheap uniques is the amount of available corruptions. I consider them core to gearing but I can see that not being reasonable. Some of the most important corruptions are +1 curse on Eye of Innocence, +1 arrow on Quill Rain, curse on hit on Empire’s Grasp, corrupted blood immunity on The Siege, and spell suppress on Torchoak Step.

Watcher’s Eye
Only really useful if you can get two or more useful affixes but there are some really good ones. Your totems mostly survive the self-damage but they can still occasionally die to super juicers. Life gain on hit using vitality makes them unkillable. Spell suppress, evasion, flat armour, phys reduction are all nice as well.




Reduced flask charges isn't too bad really since you're killing a bunch of mobs but you do run through life flask charges very fast, keep an eye on this when heading into the boss area.

Monsters have %chance to avoid Elemental Ailments sucks but this doesn't actually brick the map. It's still runnable but I would avoid engaging with super tanky mechanics like Crucible with this on. This is a brick on rollable boss maps, this will make them so much tankier.

I keep an enduring mana flask around for Players can't regenerate life and mana rolls. I tend to avoid these but if you really want to run a map with this on, it's mostly fine to just drop Quartz Flask for a run.

Be very wary of Searching Exarch altars that give monsters +80% fire resistance or resistance to ignites.

Running maps is about dropping your ballista into packs and getting out of them very quickly. It’s applicable to all builds but even more so to this one, always be moving.

I personally play my game in windowed mode and squish the window a bit for faux-widescreen. It really helps with giving you space to see stuff that isn't just your hundreds of projectiles flying everywhere.

Don’t drop all your ballista in one place while mapping unless you are trying to kill a really tanky monster. Dropping just two for a pack decreases the risk of a high amount of lag.

Totems can be very laggy if it keeps vacuuming enemies that are stuck behind a ledge or next to an immune shrine so you want to be careful placing totems near those places. If it gets to a point where it’s so laggy you can barely move, do a weapon swap to a non-bow weapon to despawn your totems.

Turn dynamic culling on in the graphics options.
Last edited by zgish on Mar 28, 2024, 9:58:33 PM
Last bumped on Mar 21, 2024, 8:54:52 PM
Thanks for the build, just started working on it. But... it's HUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE!!!! I LOVE IT. Also I use frenzy(+ culling) with manaforged arrow supp (thank god it triggers when i place totems), so I don't have to manually do it.
Glad you like it! Manaforged is really nice QoL, have considered moving some gems around to fit MForged and Frenzy in.
Dabbling around making this work with a shield and wand.
Frenzy as main skill.
You will lose attack speed, but survivability will triple.

Any ideas here?
Would a Lvl 31 shako be worth it over a 6L? I just bought the only one in CHC.
Yes. Absolutely.
Ballista totem support scales life on levels, 31 is endlessly more powerful than 21 in a six link. Aim for 35.
Got a lvl 34 now, it quadrupled my 6-link 21 damage, I think.
Yep Eldheim is correct, getting a higher level Ballista Totem support is very important. Anything above 30 will significantly increase your damage. Also note my updates to the build, I no longer believe Sniper's Mark is necessary or even that beneficial to the build.
I think Crucible mobs have reduced damage taken similar to Deli. I am not igniting them with my 2-4 fire damage in POB with 100% chance to ignite.
Uggh... Remembering to activate my flasks in every single zone of Uber Lab proved too much for me. RIP.

Awesome build. It was really coming together. I'll be excited to reroll if another shako comes up for sale.
Last edited by Seufari on May 10, 2023, 1:41:05 PM
Aw man, I have definitely been subject to that before. Lab is really annoying for builds reliant on flasks. Just too chicken for HC myself hah
Last edited by zgish on May 11, 2023, 3:32:14 AM

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