[1.3.x] Dual Flame Totems: Solo, Self-Found, Beginner-friendly. AA+EB!
***** Now updated for 1.3 *****
Now with Purity of Elements as a third aura, better totems, lower skill costs! Here's the new skill tree:
Level 84 build with an extra aura
Read the whole guide for all the details! The build also works for Templar and Witch, with only the first four (five) points being different.
Dual Flame Totems Guide for Scion (and Witch/Templar)
Updated for Path of Exile v1.3.x.
This guide's audience
This guide is aimed at both new and experienced players. I've tried to write it in a way so that it is suitable for everyone, including those of you who may not yet have in-depth knowledge of the game. The build is a good choice for a character starting out with an empty stash, a great pick for players not wishing to trade items, and it is very suitable for fresh leagues as well.
Since it is my goal to provide a usable guide for everyone, there is some material in here that may seem very obvious to veteran players. Still, many guides are targeted at advanced exiles who know the game inside and out, and when I was new, I felt confused because so many details were skipped or assumed to be known. I have attempted to be mindful of this when putting together the guide.
This build doesn't require any specific items (but benefits from some uniques, so there is always room for more potential) and is suitable for solo players, league starters, self-found enthusiasts, softcore and hardcore players. It is well suited for a first or second character and isn't hard to play. It is easy and efficient, allows you to beat the entire game without bumping into roadblocks, can be used for farming, and offers a smooth entry into end game mapping even when all you have is a 4-linked item (you'll want 5L eventually).
The build works for Witch and Templar as well, though the quest rewards section won't apply. The only difference are the starting points.
From Blood Magic to Mana, August 2014
Originally, this Flame Totem guide for Scion was centered around the Blood Magic keystone. However, when the Forsaken Masters expansion was released (patch 1.2), the life nodes were severely reduced. A side effect of this was that the HP regeneration also took a hit. This removed a key advantage of the previous build. Simultaneously, skill costs were lowered, and various skill tree changes also removed the downside of going for a mana build. Overall, the new build does more damage and is, in spite of having less life a bit tougher. More information on these up- and downsides are provided in the "Mana, the blue juice" section below.
Since I still love the Flame Totem skill and there is currently no other such guide for the Scion class, I've adjusted the build to the new conditions. If you had previously followed this guide, you also received a free respec, so you can change the character to my new build. You probably will need to change some gear pieces, since the build is now mana-based, but it shouldn't be a major issue. You may find that you lack about 30 DEX which you need to compensate with gear (there are also some 10 DEX nodes around the fringes of the core build).
On the upside, the build is still extremely well suited for beginners and veteran players alike, and it works in both the softcore and hardware leagues. The build also still features good HP regeneration, and we can now run auras. I'll cover auras and how they work with this build further below. The build is also great for starting in a new league as you do not need any particular items. You can finish the whole game with just four links.
I've re-written many parts of the guide, which is still an on-going process. If you notice any errors or omissions, please let me know. Also, when reading the discussion below, keep in mind that all of the older posts refer to the Blood Magic based version of the guide are no longer valid. Just hop to the posts made in and after September 2014 (around page 18), as they will be current for this version of the build. :)
What this build is about
Like many players, I cycled through a lot of different builds, trying to find that one build that "feels right". Something that "clicks" and really works for the person. It's highly subjective, of course. I wanted a build that "doesn't annoy me". Pretty vague, but it's really just that "feel" of a build. Some are very strong, but twitchy, or you teleport into walls, desync, have to kite endlessly, nudge stuck minions, need top gear, get reflected into oblivion, leveling is a chore, or bosses are tricky and you have to ask people to help you.
In the week between Domination and Ambush, back in early spring '14, I decided to just goof around and try out Flame Totem. I knew some people had played with it, but it seemed pretty niche. But there was nothing to lose, so I made a new HC character (nothing in the stash) and leveled him. He made it to 70s when my router balked, and that was it. Still, I had never leveled so smoothly, taking every boss that's usually difficult for me (Vaal in merciless, The Weaver, Kole) without the slightest issue.
My build wasn't ideal and I soon realized how expensive Flame Totems get in terms of mana, so I went back to the drafting board and came up with an entirely different build. One that uses Blood Magic. And no, not gems, but the keystone. This worked well until the Forsaken Masters expansion in August 2014 when life nodes were severely nerfed, and mana nodes buffed. The situation got reversed and now the Blue approach, mana, was the key to success. The build went back to using mana. Patch 1.3, in December 2014, brought more changes, all of them great for this build, that led to further changes such as the possibility to add a third aura. The build has changed over time, as a result of experiments, theorycrafting, and the discussion with others, as well as with the changes made to the game.
Let's look about what's good and not so good about the build.
- Low gear requirements initially, but can make excellent use of expensive gear as well.
- Easy and straight-forward to play. It's not twitchy.
- Great damage while leveling with only 3 or 4 links.
- Fairly good pool of health points.
- Arctic Armor for extra survivability.
- Above-average life regeneration.
- Works very well on act bosses, (most) map bosses, champions.
- Totems can be used for scouting, so chargers and leapers attack them.
- Clears maps and areas quickly and efficiently.
- Flexible gear: You can swap in what you want, including IIR.
- Suitable for HC. (Worked great for me in Charity Race, Beyond, Bloodlines.)
- Very suitable for solo players, can be played self-found.
- You get most essential gems as quest rewards (Scion).
- Causes no desync, so no stress with bouncing back into rooms.
- Can handle all map mods except two.
- Reflect maps are no problem.
- Playstyle may be boring to some, but it can actually be intense.
- In the first 31 levels you won't have Flame Totem. (Lightning Tendrils + Firestorm = fun!)
- Dual totems mean you can't cast any direct damage spells (but you can use traps and mines).
- Totem survivability vs. some map bosses can be troublesome (i.e. you have to spam them).
- No Life Leech, so you must relay on flasks (which were buffed in the Forsaken Masters expansion).
- May not have an easy time with Atziri (strategy section on this will be added later).
The build works with both the Scion and the Witch, and also the Templar, with only the very first points being different. The Scion has the advantage that she gets more of the essential gems needed for the build as quest rewards. This mostly matters if this is your first serious character or you play self-found. A few gems need to be found or traded, but none of them are essential. I prefer the Scion's central position in the skill tree, making it easy to make adjustments later. (And she's not so obsessed with dead things, other than her husband.)
Mana, the blue juice
Previously, this build used Blood Magic to bypass the problem of Flame Totem being rather costly in terms of resources. By using Blood Magic, and thus life instead of mana for casting spells, we could go with very high HP regeneration and trivialize the gearing process. However, after the changes to the life nodes, which also had devastating effects on the percentage-based HP regeneration, this was no longer an optimal choice. Especially in light of mana nodes having been buffed and the changes to the skill tree now favoring the mana playstyle for this build, going with mana is now the better option.
This comes with some upsides as well as downsides. The main downside is that you also need mana and mana regeneration mods on your gear. Additionally, the build now uses Eldritch Battery (a passive skill that you'll take later), which turns your Energy Shield into mana. The latter isn't a downside per se, it's just another trip across half the skill tree, though we use that opportunity to grab some awesome nodes in the Witch area.
The major advantages are that you can also run auras (since patch 1.3 even a third one!), which makes you a welcome member to any party, and that you can run Arctic Armor. In previous versions of the build, we relayed chiefly on monstrous HP regeneration, but we still did take damage upfront when things went south. Since we now have monstrous mana regeneration instead, we can use Arctic Armor, which makes you nearly immune against small hits, like the "machine gun" fire of miscreations ("titty bitches", as they are affectionately called) and the paradise bird type of monsters. Life regeneration of this build is still better than with most builds, so overall you are fairly sturdy.
This new build also does more damage than the previous version, since we take more spell damage nodes instead of dipping into the Marauder and Duelist areas. Luckily, the Totemic Zeal cluster was moved close to the Scion area, so we can grab it still. If you recall the previous discussion, the "30% Casting Speed for Summoning Totems" isn't just the speed with which you put down totems, but seems to increase the speed at which the totems cast. Both the tooltip dps and the "felt" dps confirm this.
Another advantage is that previous issues with getting enough INT are now out of the picture. This enables access to high energy shield armor and wands, so your gear selection increased quite a bit. You can now also use the Cloak of Defiance, a unique chest piece, which provides the passive skill "Mind over Matter" (MoM, not to be confused with Master of Magic, for you fellow oldies out there!) that removes 10% of the damage you take from your mana bubble instead of your HP pool. This is not essential by any means, but works very well with this build. Don't feel that you have to have it, though. It's really very optional.
Like with all totem builds, you run around and place your totems strategically and recast them when they go down. They can also be used for scouting (totems do not trigger Devourers) and for blocking passages. Flame Totems are no exception. The nice thing about them is that they are very predictable. They usually throw their flames in the direction of where the closest monster is, and they do more damage the closer the monster is to the totem. Two of them work extremely well together. They also can take a few hits with the passives that we take. Flame Totems are very good at drawing "aggro", that is, they grab the attention of monsters. If something still comes to you, you can run to your totems and they will pull the aggro off of you. It's very rare to get swarmed if you play correctly.
You can support your totems with a curse, and you should! (Though it's not really important at all before you get to Merciless.) Actually, ideally we want to use two curses, but this requires one of two unique item that you may not have initially: Windscream boots or the Doedre's Damning ring. These are inexpensive and do allow you to use both Elemental Weakness and Flammability. But don't worry. I didn't get the boots before my character was 78 or 79, and you'll do fine with only one curse. Also, corrupted items (at least amulets) can get the +1 Curse inherit mod, so this would be another way to get the second curse without relaying on the boots or the ring. Which you pick, if you have the choice, is up to you. Either one is fine and the build supports it. I'd probably opt for the ring, but it all depends on what you have. The boots also give you a damage bonus, but you'll move somewhat slowly. (Even doing 76-78 maps, I usually only use Elemental Weakness, if I curse at all. Things melt quickly.)
Previously, before the 1.3 patch in December 2014, I favored Elemental Weakness as quality further lowers the resistance penalty for monsters, and second, we might have wanted to use Added Lightning Damage as our 5th gem, and that's damage that's amplified by the curse ("might", because it depends a bit on your gear and the skill tree situation. Flammability is now my primary choice of a curse, for this reason: The Celestial Punishment node causes ignited mobs to take 25% more damage, and Flammability further increases the chance that mobs get ignited. This provides a bigger damage boost than a quality Elemental Weakness gem would. If you use both curses, you get the best of both worlds!
While you cannot use spells to damage monsters directly (this is the price for being able to cast two totems), you can still use mines and traps. You can also use Ice Nova to destroy containers like crates, vase, and urns. You are unlikely to need the extra damage, certainly not before maps, but you can use Fire Trap, as well. Originally I recommended a quality Shocknova, which is still an option, but a quality Added Lightning Damage gem and the Static Blows passive at high levels may be a workable alternative (this is debatable, see below). This is more end game stuff, though, and nothing you need to decide or even try out before the 80s.
I use Lightning Warp for mobility and to get out of stick spots, and this also destroys urns and crates. Teleporting to your totems can be a nifty trick, too. Again, remember you use life as your casting resource, so get a feel for how much wiggle room you have. Normally, you are always behind your totems anyway and they collect all the monsters in the area.
Something I added later to my arsenal is Conversion Trap. Leaving it at level 1, it allows you to turn up to three monsters into temporary tanks and decoys that fight for you (and above all: keep monsters off of you and your totems) for five seconds. This is extremely handy and the spell needs no support gems. For me, this gem is essential. (But it is not required.)
Gems and Links
The build (the skill tree follows in the next post) works well with only 4-linked gear, and is even potent with only three links, but you can substantially boost the damage of your totems if you get a 5th or 6th link. 6L really isn't necessary, 5L is recommend past the low level mapping stage. By the time you want that you are at a point in the game where you have the means to farm. You also have some flexibility here. Let's look at our options.
Flame Totem + Lesser/Greater Multiple Projectles + Fire Penetration + Faster Casting + Added Chaos Damage + Faster Projectiles
GMP is essential, but you can use LMP until you get GMP. LMP is given to you in act2/normal as a quest reward, if you're a Scion. Fire Penetration is a direct damage boost even if monsters have no fire resists, and it makes fire resistant mobs very manageable. It stacks with the curses. Faster Casting is also a dps boost since your totems will blow fire at a higher rate. These are your four essential gems. When adding quality to your gems, GMP and Faster Casting are your priorities. You can get to Merciless easily with just FT + LMP + Fire Pen, so don't worry if you're missing Faster Casting early on.
For the sixth gem, if you get a 6L chest or staff (chest is better, see below), you have various options. Possible choices are: Faster Projectiles for longer beams, Item Rarity for better drops, Iron Will for more damage from all your Strength nodes, or Totem and Minion Resistances if you feel your totems fold too quickly (not an issue, just recast them).
Note: For some time I considered Added Lightning Damage as an alternative to Added Chaos Damage, but the shocking effect you get from it (with Static Blows) is spotty and unreliable. In 1.3+, with the new skill tree that gives so much +Elemental Damage, Added Lightning Damage may outdo Added Chaos Damage, but this requires more testing. Either gem will do fine. Right now, I prefer Added Chaos Damage because it is rarely resisted and goes through shields.
In 1.3 and later, totems are affected by defensive auras (and offensive ones that are active on the caster). This means that Discipline now gives them an Energy Shield and they get resists from Purity of X. This makes totems substantially more resilient. Purity of X (preferably Purity of Elements, unless you want to increase the resist cap of a specific element, which may be the case for specific bosses or areas) is new in this build as of patch 1.3:
Reduced Mana + Discipline + Clarity + Purity of Elements (OR Purity of X)
It is important not to click "level up" whenever Clarity and Arctic Armor (see below) are ready. Increase their level depending on your gear. It won't do you any good to have Arctic Armor at a high level when you run out of mana whenever you run for a few seconds (teleporting helps). Likewise, a level 20+ Clarity is useless if you can't mildly spam Flame Totem. The ideal situation you aim for is that you do not need to carry a mana potion.
You may not be able to run Arctic Armor consistently until a higher level or better gear. That's fine. This build worked perfectly well long before I included Arctic Armor. Discipline may also not be usable for you right away (while Reduced Mana is low or unavailable). Level it anyway, and keep it turned off until you can support it. My experience is that you don't really need anything except Clarity until the mapping stage of the game. Don't handicap yourself needlessly. Just Clarity and perhaps a low level Arctic Armor (to get in the habit of turning it on every time to change zones -- hey, GGG, this should be fixed!).
Arctic Armor (+ Increased Duration AND/OR Empower)
Faster Casting, Enhance, Enlighten work with Arctic Armor also, however, Reduced Mana doesn't. You really don't need any supports for it. Increased Duration makes the ice path longer, which can be useful strategically. Empower is the best support gem for it, but it will further increase the mana usage.
As for Herald of Ice: The totems only gain the flat damage, but not the explosions. The damage increase is definitely not worth the mana reserve, for this build.
Most of the other stuff is more or less optional and you can go with what you prefer (except for the curse). Personally, I use these:
Elemental Weakness + Flammability + Increased Area of Effect (+ Increased Duration)
Cast When Damage is Taken (level 1) + Enduring Cry (5) + Molten Shell (7) + Immortal Call (3)
Lightning Warp + Faster Casting + Reduced Duration
Conversion Trap, needs no supports, leave it at level 1.
You can also use the curses and the teleport without support gems, especially if they increase the casting costs too much during early leveling. It's certainly possible to also have a second Cast When Damage Taken setup (even with Lightning Warp for a quick way away from something that hits you, but that is risky because you may end up in a worse position!), if you find the room for it.
Quest Rewards (being reworked)
(1.3 note: Some quest rewards may have changed, so I need to verify this section still, but it should be mostly accurate.)
This section is still being updated - the list is currently incorrect, for a few days longer.
As a Scion, you get most of the gems you need simply by playing through the game. The only tricky part is that both GMP and Cast When Damage Taken come from the same quest. If you haven't found either of them, I'd suggest to take GMP and trade or hunt for CWDT. Here's an almost complete list of relevant rewards:
Flame Totem: Scion, Act 1 Cruel, Enemy at the Gate
Lesser Multiple Projectiles for leveling: Scion, Act 2 Normal, Sharp and Cruel
Greater Multiple Projectiles: Scion, Act 3 Merciless, Library
Faster Casting: Scion, Act 2 Cruel, Sharp and Cruel
Fire Penetration: Scion, Act 3 Normal, Sever the Right Hand
Elemental Weakness: Scion, Act3 Cruel, Library (Added Chaos Damage is an alternative here)
Faster Projectiles: Scion, Act 3 Normal, Sever the Right Hand, but we need to take Fire Penetration here unless we found it before.
Flammability: Scion, Act 2 Normal, Intruders in Black (you get this earlier than Elemental Weakness)
Increased Aera of Effect: Scion, Act 3, Cruel, Severer the right Hand
Increased Duration: Scion, Act 1, Cruel, Mercy Mission
Lightning Warp: Scion, Act 1 Cruel, Caged brute
Reduced Duration: buy or find, not a reward
Faster Casting #2: buy or find, as we only get one.
Clarity: Scion, Act 1 Normal, Caged Brute (level it slowly)
Enduring Cry for CwDT: Scion, Act 1 Normal, Intruders in Black (new reward in 1.2)
Shopping list as you don't get these from quests: 1 Faster Casting, 1 Reduced Duration, either 1 Elemental Weakness or 1 Added Chaos Damage, whichever you do not have. (If you have neither, I'd take Elemental Weakness and trade or hunt for Added Chaos when you get a 5th link.) For the defensive, optional, though highly recommended, setup: 1 Cast When Damage Taken (can't take it as a reward because we need Greater Multiple Projectiles more, but if you have, or have found, GWP, take CwDT in act 3, library quest in merciless.
I don't use any. The only one that I feel warrants a gem slot is Vaal Summon Skeletons, which is fun and can actually be useful once or twice on a map, but it's entirely optional. If you have or find it, and you have room for it, it will not bite you.
This build works well with self-found gear, but it also scales well with currency you throw at it.
For the weapon, you can use a 2H caster staff or, better, two wands with spell damage, faster casting, increased projectile speed, and increased fire damage, or a wand and a shield. You can also use a scepter, or even two scepters, but they can't have the faster projectiles mod.
The Searing Totem staff is not as good an option as it may seem. Two good wands give you better damage, and they are also much cheaper. This does mean you eventually want a chest with five or six links. You can start maps with a 4L chest (I used a 2H staff with 5L until 83 and had 4L for 66-68 maps) and then obtain something with more links. A Tabula Rasa would work, but you really want a nice chest with some stats. ~90 Life and resists help you more than a 6th link.
You can wear all kinds of armor types, and while leveling you should use whatever has the best life, mana/mana regeneration, and resist stats. Later on, it's a good idea to go for hybrid STR/INT armor. Why STR/INT? Because you do benefit from the energy shield they provide (gets converted to mana with Eldritch Battery), but above all it makes it easier to get blue and red sockets. Pure INT armor will be very hard to color properly, and the same is true for pure STR armor. (And the higher the STR or INT requirement is, the harder it is to get off colors.) Vorici, the new Master, can help with color changing now, though. Pure INT armor would be the second choice, if INT/STR armor isn't available to you with equal stats. Some armor also helps with mitigating damage, but don't expect wonders. You won't be a tank.
Resists, mana, and life are the most useful, as are casting speed and spell/elemental/fire damage bonuses.
For the rings and amulet you want pretty much the same again: damage increases, resists, life, mana, mana reg. IIR is obviously fine. Cast speed is nice, as well, because your totems use YOUR casting speed, too. The suggest skill tree is pretty flexible and aims at making you somewhat independent of gear, so it may take more resists and dexterity passives than you need. You can take these out or move them around, depending on your needs.
For the other pieces you want the same. Movement speed on the boots is always nice, and your priority for all of these pieces is life.
There are three uniques that will have a major impact (but are nevertheless optional):
The boots or ring allow you to put two curses on monsters simultaneously without having to invest passive points. In practice, you won't always drop two curses on monsters (they melt very quickly with one or none), but it is a significant damage boost nonetheless.
1.2+ note: The helmet allows your fire damage to shock monsters (you do not have to critically hit for this), which causes them to take more damage. Before 1.2, this was a real game changer, but after the modifications to the shock mechanics and the skill tree, this is no longer a particularly outstanding choice.
The downside of these uniques is that they do not have +life (but they at least have resists!). This is a sacrifice, and neither unique is required for this build to work, so not having either of them will not break it.
I've been mostly playing with dual wands, but if you eventually find yourself too squishy, or want to utilize shield stats, there are plenty rare shields that will work. As for unique shields, I've played a bit with these two:
Both actually dropped for the character in Ambush. Saffell's is neat for the resists boost (and higher cap), but I found Rathpith's Globe substantially nicer for this build (ignore the Vaal gem, it's just there to level!). 1.2 and after note: Which maps being slightly harder and our life regeneration lower, I tend to favor shields for more difficult maps now. Both are situational shields, and you can of course use a rare shield with good stats now. Caster shields are a very viable option with this build now.
The next post shows the passive tree.
Last edited by Mivo on December 22, 2014 10:40 PM
Here's the suggested skill tree for a Scion, assuming level 84 (103 points used), as of 1.3.x:
You have some flexibility here, so don't hesitate to move around a few points, but the build as shown above gives you a solid character that works with fairly average gear.
Where to go from here? If you play higher than level 84, you have various options. If you find yourself having problems with keeping Arctic Armor up while running and spamming Arctic Armor, get mana regeneration nodes either in the starting area of the Witch or the Templar. If you are fine and want more damage, go for Heart of Flame at the top of the tree. If you want better auras, there are two nodes left in the Sovereignty cluster. There are also life nodes everywhere in easy reach, and even resist nodes (down by Sentinel), though with Purity of Elements and gear you should be set.
Note on Ironwood cluster
In previous versions of this guide, I strongly recommended the Ironwood Cluster. Due to the buffs to totems in patch 1.3 in December 2014, the cluster is no longer a good idea. It takes too many points to get there. Instead, we now take Sovereignty to reduce reserved mana for auras, which (with the Reduced Mana gem) allows the build to run three auras: Discipline (totems get an Energy Shield, you get the extra mana via Eldritch Battery), Clarity, and Purity of Elements (your totems get the resists as well, which is new in 1.3).
What follows are only suggestions for how to go about spending your skill points as a Scion (Witch and Templar are the same, except for the starting points). Every guide writer says this, but it is particularly true with the build. Once you have taken Ancestral Bond and Eldritch Battery, you have complete freedom to decide when to pick up the nodes outlined in the level 84 skill tree.
Starting as a Scion, you'll get to Ancestral Bond right at level 30 or 31, and if you have the Flame Totem gem at this point, get the keystone and the fun starts. Don't take it before you're a full-time totem user! The following leveling trees assume that you take it at 31, but it's just this one point. If you get it later because you don't have Flame Totem yet and need to self-cast spells a while longer, just get the other nodes in the meantime.
Eldritch Battery is a similar deal: You want it as soon as possible, but you'll probably be fine for a few extra levels. If you only have a low level Flame Totem + Lesser Multiple Projectiles + Fire Penetration, and don't run Arctic Armor yet (no real need for it early on), you won't hurt for mana. In fact, you won't even need Clarity and can just run something like Herald of Ice/Thunder (the on-death effects don't work with totems, but the upfront damage does; it's not much, and you won't use it later, but extra damage is extra damage). I'd pick up a few life nodes first, then get Eldritch Battery (as shown in the leveling trees).
Here are my suggestions with some commentary (levels are estimates, depending on your quest progress):
37 skill points (around level 34)
Get Ancestral Bond before the life wheel below the Scion starting area.
52 skill points (around level 44):
At this point, you should run Clarity and Arctic Armor level 6-8, depending on gear. The AA won't do much for you (but it helps and the chilling trail is neat), but it's good to get in the habit of using it, and this way you'll also develop a feeling for how much regeneration you need. Only level up Arctic Armor when you can support it.
76 skill points (around level 60):
Getting Sovereignty before the Witch life/mana cluster and Totemic Mastery, makes it possibly to get Clarity, Discipline and Arctic Armor running in the low to mid 50s already. I tried it this way in Bloodlines (HC) and it turned out really well. It made the transition from Cruel to Merciless rather eaasy. At around 60, Arctic Armor should be at gem level 10 or so. 12 is pushing it. Damage even with 3L is not a problem, but there is no reason not to have a 4L Flame Totem at this point.
94 skill points (around level 75):
The build is coming together. By now, you should be running maps already, and you'll come to appreciate the extra totem life from the Totemic Zeal cluster. Arctic armor should be around gem level 15 at this point, give or take level, depending on your mana and mana regeneration (it mostly depends on +mana on your gear). Purity of Elements may or may not fit on the character yet since Reduced Mana is probably around gem level 16-17 now. You should at least have a 4L Flame Totem now and trying to find, craft or trade for a chest with at least five links so that you can start using a 5L Flame Totem. Potential target values for HP and mana are 3700-4000 HP and around 2000 mana (before auras). Don't worry if your numbers are lowers.
Continue spending points until you get to the target skill tree (see above).
Any difference for HC players?
No, the suggested leveling goals already focus on survivability and "quality of life" over damage. If you low on exist or life, you could go down to Sentinel earlier than I suggested and delay getting the damage nodes in the Witch area. Arctic Armor is something you'll want to get as soon as your mana and mana regeneration allows for it, and then raise it slowly. It's easy to go over board with it (and Clarity), and then find yourself being unable to semi-spam Flame Totem. If that happens, getting the Iron Wood totem cluster a bit earlier can help (the way down there also gives STR and thus HP).
When to get Ancestral Bond
You'll want to put a point into the Ancestral Bond passive right when you get Flame Totem. This will either be at level 31 if you found or traded the gem (this makes Dominus a cakewalk) or when you get it early in act 1 of cruel (around 38-42). You can use Flame Totem right away. The damage will be superb. I also talked about this above in the Leveling Goals section.
What skill to use before Flame Totem
Whatever you have and that works for you. Previously I recommended Spectral Throw here, but we now grab so many mana and INT nodes in the first 30+ levels that using a spell is an obvious choice. You have a lot of choice here, but pick a single target and an area damage spell. In 1.3 and after, I really like the Lightning Tendrils (you get it right from the first quest) and Firestorm (you get it from Breaking Eggs at level 6) combination. Super easy and fast leveling, and all the skills you grab on your way to Ancestral Bond support the caster playstyle. It's really fun to level now! This works well into the 40s, too, in case you get Flame Totem only from the act1/Cruel quest and don't find/trade for it before. Fantastically easy and smooth!
The again-increased life nodes below Scion's start area make sure that you'll be sturdy while leveling, too. They're much nicer than in 1.1.x, though they are an exception. Most other life nodes have been rather wimpy since 1.2.
In normal, help Oak for the 40 HP (still the best option even in 1.2+).
In cruel, kill them all for a skill point.
In merciless, kill these clowns again for another skill point.
You could take the Endurace Charge in merciless or the cast speed in cruel, but the skill points are more flexible. Just get the point. Really, it's the best choice. :)
Last edited by Mivo on December 18, 2014 6:55 AM
Maps and Tips
Under construction still
This build is capable of doing any map mods except two: "No life/mana regeneration" and "Blood Magic" (ironic, considering the build's history!). Everything else works, though as with all builds there are some mods that are pretty tedious, like "Fractured" (this will cause massive FPS drops if your system is an average one, and probably even if it's a pretty good machine, too).
50% regeneration is not an issue, either, but less fun, and you may have to turn off Arctic Armor. You will need to be more mindful when you spam totems, but unless the rest of the mods are very nasty, it's not an issue. 75% Fire Resistance is barely noticeable if you can curse. Combined with curse immune monsters it will be slower and I'd reroll the map, but it's not impossible.
"Chaos Damage" as a map mod was removed in 1.2, and the "replacement", desecrated ground, is not a problem at all. You can stand in it.
Map bosses are generally not an issue unless they are the kind that are also tricky for summoners, like Temple Piety, where your totems go down extremely fast. Dropping totems on top of the bosses (sandwiching them) is a good approach here. With various bosses you'll want to stay on the edge of the screen so that you don't eat stray hits or drown in AoE damage. You have no leech, just your life regeneration and flasks, but a lot of incoming damage is still something to be mindful of. Typically difficult bosses, like the Museum one, or Brutus versions, are trivial with this build. Cast on the edge of the screen (Brutus types will even pull the totems to himself, the fool!) and remain mobile. Map versions of Merveil are a pain for totem builds now, so I have been skipping them. It's do-able, just annoying. I've done all maps up to and including 78 ones with this build.
Difficult because of the lack of block and spell block. I need more time to experiment here before I can say something that is helpful. I don't think the build is really suitable for Atziri. Über-Atziri will not be do-able with this build.
It's become a bread and butter skill for me. Still at gem level 1, I use it frequently on the more difficult maps. The temporary extra tanks can really give your totems a break, and they make large groups of Lightning Thorn casting mages with their charging minions a lot easier. It also works wonders with a clogged door entrance where your totems may go down without doing much damage. Also, if something sticks to you and you can't seem to get away (something extra fast on a Temporal Chains map, and yes, I run those!), a trap helps.
This is an ideal build to open them safely (be wary of the broken Ice Nova boxes). Just drop down two totems and three Conversion Traps, and then open the chest. You can safely walk away without having to do anything that may get you desynced. You should have a thawing flask with you (of Heat). You can also use Lightning Warp to get away, but chances are your gems aren't maxed yet, so it can be useful to start casting, then open the box, and then get warped when the monsters appear. But as mentioned, I almost always just walk away. Between the three converted mobs and the two totems, you don't get targeted, usually. For extra credits, use a Quartz flask so nothing will block you.
Take whichever appeal the most to you or whose services you desire the most. Remember that you can invite them at level 2, get their workbench, then dismiss them, so even though you can only do the daily quests for 2-4 of them (depending on size of the hideout), you can have all of the crafting devices (they gain new options when the respective master levels up, even if that master is not in your hideout). Your live-in masters should be the ones that you want to level up the fastest, because daily quests award extra master XP.
I consider Vorici pretty essential, though his quests are also the biggest problem for a totem build. I'll add some more tips for these later, but for now make good use of kiting and separating, and of recasting and precise-dropping of totems. Conversion Trap can help tremendously as well if you need to keep a guard alive. Keeping ALL of them alive, if you get get that quest, is however challenging. Trying to lure away the exile works often, but sometimes you get guards that you simply can't seem to lose. We share this dilemma with summoners and various other build types, so perhaps GGG will address the matter. On the happy side, the build works really well with fractured maps (if your computer is up to it, but that isn't build-specific!) that Zana often gives for her quests. The totems don't really care if they fry three or thirty mobs that are in front of them.
Zana is a good choice, too. You "only" have to find her twice before you can invite her (which took me about 50 maps). Since she's so elusive, it's good to be able to do her daily quests (this build can do all of them. Personally, I started with her and Tora, and Tora is mostly for my bow-based ranger so that I can craft a better weapon for that character. Plus I like her and have opted for hideout tileset, so it feels right for her to live there, too. Eleron would probably be a better pick than Tora. One of his recipes is an enchantment that lowers the mana costs for skills.
Coming soon, running some numbers, so just adding this here as a reminder that I still need to include this (probably in the gear section).
More to come!
Have fun frying stuff!
Last edited by Mivo on September 29, 2014 2:12 AM
on March 11, 2014 6:56 AM
This build is almost exactly what I was expecting. I still decided to go to the Sentinel route south of the starting area. I may or may not change that depending on my choices. I found that the early armor/resists really helped me through normal content in invasion.
As for HP regen, yes it should be extreme. The last patch actually increased the total number of hp/sec, though most who play again will notice a change in total health pool.
All in all, it's still a great build that has been very handy to have in a new league.
on March 11, 2014 2:38 PM
Sentinel is an excellent choice. I had this on my list of possible options for later on (the posted tree is only until 71, so there's at least 15 more "realistic" points to be had before the grind becomes tedious) since not only it is another boost for armor and 10% resists, but it also puts you right in front of more resists (if you need them) and the totem cluster. Totem Range should prove pretty strong later on when Faster Projectiles is added as the 5th or 6th link.
I'll put this in the tips section too, but while mapping I was experimenting with Conversion Trap, and it makes a world of a difference in certain situations (rooms full of Tentacle Miscreations, ice mages that freeze the totems, etc). It gives the totems a break to do damage and it doesn't really need any support gems. In fact, it works best at level 1 since you don't want your temporary tanks to live too long. Conversion Trap is also an "oh shit!" button if something runs straight up to you, and it works wonders when opening lockboxes! (I had used Conversion Traps with a claw build a few months back and remembered today to give it a try, and it worked so well!)
I'm still mapping with 4L only to test the limits of the build. I'm actually surprised how well "doing maps with crap" works with this build. None of my other builds was able to pull this off.
on March 11, 2014 3:01 PM
ops no wonder its familiar, but yeah this build awesome, i can easily farm piety for currency/uniques, thumbs up!
Last edited by Hexogen on March 11, 2014 3:08 PM
on March 11, 2014 3:05 PM
I'm using the build to do invasion currently. Still only a moderate level in the invasion league, but the resists are very demanding with some of the new insta-gib that can happen out there.
As for my standard flame totem character, the 5L and 6L are great. I generally go crazy on the MF gear and push the DPS just fine. End game maps haven't been an issue--though the 50% or 0% health regen is hard/impossible.
Faster projectiles is amazing, though it's sort of a flavor. I have run with added chaos, but I also enjoy Iron Will. Both are reasonably similar. GMP>Faster Casting>Fire Pen>IronWill OR Added Chaos> Faster Projectile.
Health regen on the invasion league is just over 120 hp/sec, which is okay for now.
Regen on Standard is 270/sec. Delicious stuff!
on March 11, 2014 4:22 PM
I picked up a 5L staff on Ambush for just 2c, and when the 10th alt yielded a +25% fire damage and (lousy) 9% spell damage, I stopped re-rolling. The darn regal only added 10 mana, which is totally wasted. But this is OK for now, it's a new league after all, and the Searing Bond craze made Searing Touch completely outside of what I can afford (maybe if they nerf SB some more! :p). Life reg is at 240 HP/s, and a 5L totem (chaos damage) costs 302, which works out perfectly.
I've also fallen in love with Conversion Trap. It works well both offensively and defensively, and adds to survivability. I added some thoughts on this in the third post. Also been keeping notes about maps and map mods, but need to transcribe those still. I love doing chaos damage/sec maps, because I could never do those before with any build. :)
Finally, I decided that Sentinel is going to be my next node (76 now on Ambush), partly to increase survivability, to be able to free up two other points by getting that 10 dex node (only need 10 currently, not 30), and to be right outside the Totem Range cluster. After that, I'll most likely grab a few damage nodes and/or the five points directly by the Marauder (for Marauder readers: getting the Scion's life regeneration and first life node would be the equivalent).
Good luck on Invasion, by the way! I'll give it a whirl when Tovi gets to 90, which is my goal for this league (to get the SC achievement out of the way). In Domination I had several characters in the 70s and early 80s, but spread myself way too thin. This time around, I only play one character (ok, I may or may not have leveled a shadow a bit on the side!).
on March 11, 2014 8:39 PM
That was really fun to read and what a great build, cheap and effective :). Going to try it, first time playing with totems.
on March 11, 2014 9:33 PM
like the build idea and gave it a try. level 54 scion.
totems die instantly. Anything more than 2 mobs and they just die.
followed the build to the letter. Have a 5l chest to include chaos dmg.
on March 11, 2014 10:33 PM