Exploring Path of Exile Through a Mediocre Duelist
Exploring Path of Exile Through A Mediocre Duelist
This is the second in a series of builds that focus on being able to be taken from having absolutely nothing to end-game while providing an opportunity for intermediate players to learn different aspects of the game through experience. It follows a more general guide I wrote previously, after receiving a few requests to make similar guides for each class. The posting linked earlier will be used as an index for this guide series moving forward.
This build guide is aimed at players who have progressed through at least one difficulty, but are struggling to get to maps. More experienced players probably won't be seeing anything new here. The build should be viable in either softcore or hardcore leagues with possible minor variations in the passive tree, which are noted where appropriate.
The build we'll be looking at was designed to be playable from the start of the game to end-game solo and self-found if one desires. This means no reliance on specific uniques, no reliance on extremely specialized gear, no explicit need for more than a 4-link, and no reliance on gems that aren't given as quest rewards. I levelled a character in this manner, and it went pretty smoothly.
The build dual wields, using cleave and dual-strike as their main abilities for most of the levelling process, switching cleave out for cyclone around the time the character is ready to begin mapping. We also take IR, and evasion-per-frenzy-charges to allow us to boost our armour wheen needed. There's a video providing an overview of the build, as well as covering the gear I ended up having, unique drops, and currency that dropped while levelling the test character for this build.
Character Progression and Major Points of Learning
Throughout the majority of the game, cleave and dual strike will be your main skills. Engaging packs of mobs mostly boils down to having life gain on hit linked to cleave, hitting the pack a couple of times, and moving a bit.If you have the good luck to have an animate weapon drop early in the game, it can basically trivialize boss fights throughout normal and cruel difficulties. The cruel weaver fight in particular is much easier when you have the distraction of animate weapon on hand. Otherwise, you just need to make sure that you have enough life steal to keep yourself going throughout the fight.
Mana management can be a bit of a pain for this character until level 70 or so, partially because it's a very int-starved build. That said, rolling slow mana pots handles things for the most part. I ran clarity for a lot of normal difficulty, and later ran mana leech on cleave for a fair amount of cruel and merciless difficulty. Once you hit the point where you can swap out cleave for cyclone, you more or less negate the need for paying much attention to mana management, as cyclone will be linked to blood magic, leaving dual strike to be the only skill running on mana, which can be managed with one slow mana pot, or even just by waiting for mana to refill.
Grace is the only aura I ended up running, and I ran it more or less non-stop once I got it (a1c).
Once you have cyclone and blood magic, you can start using cyclone as a supplementary skill -- cleaving at a pack of mobs, and then doing a short cyclone to one side once you get surrounded, which positions you for optimal cleaving again. Throughout most of the game, cleave with life gain on hit will be your skill for AoE, and dual strike with life leech will be your single-target, supplemented by leap slam for getting to high-priority mobs, and frenzy both for the attack speed boost and for the boost to armour we get from the combination of the evasion-per-frenzy-charge node and IR. Around level 70, you should be able to switch to cyclone with life-gain-on-hit serving as both a supplementary AoE skill and your primary single-target skill, and dual-strike with melee splash serving as your main AoE skill. At this point, you won't feel the need to supplement your armour with frenzy as much, but the option is still there. Late-game, you should be able to run blood rage to keep your frenzy charges up more or less indefinitely as long as you can keep the pace of killing mobs, ideally you have at least some chaos resistance at this point, but even with -60% the degen from blood rage is manageable from the life gain you get from cyclone in most situations.
For gearing, the "usual" kata of "pick up rares, id them, equip those that are upgrades, stash those that would be partial upgrades, vendor the rest" will keep you in good shape. You need to watch out that you don't get int-bound on gear, particularly in mid-cruel onwards, as the character doesn't have much int on the tree. This does limit both gear and gem choices a good bit, but not (imo) to the point of being a major downside. Once IR is taken, hybrid gear becomes mostly ideal. Focus on life and resists on gear, mana regen being another desirable stat. I also found myself using cloth belts more often than I would otherwise, as block and stun recovery was noticeable.
The largest sticking point in gearing this character, particularly if you're going the self-found route, is going to be weapons. One handed axes and swords are what you need to be looking for (I ended up weilding axes the majority of the time), and if you haven't been keeping up on your gear upgrades it's very easy to feel when your weapons are getting out of date. You'll need to get familiar with the weapon progressions on the item-data page, and feel out when to try to roll an upgrade, keeping an eye out for white weapon drops with desirable links. I had about 15c drop while levelling the character for this build, and I ended up spending every single one rolling (or attempting to roll) weapon upgrades. I never felt particularly stuck behind a wall of needing new weapons, but there were a couple of times where I felt tangible relief upon chaosing or scour-alching a weapon that gave me a decent DPS boost. By the time this becomes a serious concern for progression, your character should also be at the point where the chaos recipe is available to them. The flipside of this would be that more than enough currency dropped that I could have just bought a couple of decent levelling weapons and not worried about it. *shrugs*.
I did feel the need to grind for gear to flesh out resists around act 2 cruel, as I didn't have the luck to have a goldrim drop for this character. To do so, I acquired a couple of max-implicit gold rings, and alt-aug'ed them until they had at least one other rarity roll, then went to town on fellshrine. Otherwise, the only time I felt the need to stop and farm was in a3m, grabbing levels before killing piety and entering maps.
For boss fights, knowing the mechanics of the fight and having appropriate gear and flasks is enough to get you through them. Cruel and merciless weaver are both gear/gem checks in a sense, as you need to have enough AoE damage and lifesteal to not get over-run (an amethyst flask/rings doesn't hurt either), and cruel dominus is the same barrier he always is -- a staunching flask, a topaz flask, some tp scrolls, and enough awareness of surroundings to handle the adds during the final phases will get you through.
1. Dual Strike
2. Leap Slam (optional, but useful)
3. Life Gain On Hit
5. Melee Splash
2. Melee Physical Damage
3. Blood Rage (level it off-hand until you can use it)
4. Life Leech (used on dual-strike until later on)
5. Faster Attacks
6. Mana Leech (optional, but useful)
1. Blood Magic (for cyclone)
2. Multistrike (for dual strike)
Normal: Oak for life
Cruel: Passive point
Merciless: Kraityn for an extra frenzy charge, or passive point, your choice.
Passive Tree Progression
1. 10 points, Master of the Arena, Mana Flows, Acceleration
2. 20 points, through dervish past IR, heading to the right-hand side of the tree
3. 29 points, thick skin and some life
4. 42 points, more life, frenzy charge, eva per frenzy charge and IR
5. 50 points, golems' blood and life
6. 60 points, dual wield block and damage
7. 74 points, axe and sword wheel and diamond skin
This is the core of the build, past this point you can pretty much do what you want -- we pass by the small gallantry cluster, are close to a few life clusters (and the 12% armour/6% life node in the duelist start), and also have the option of taking another frenzy charge / frenzy charge duration node when desired. In addition, we have small reaches to make to add to dual-wield block chance, and are fairly close to axe/sword specific clusters. In a hardcore league, it would probably be prudent to pick up the bloodless life cluster and the other +1 resist nodes we're close to in the maurader tree before trying to grab more damage.
This is the tree my character has at 92 points and this is where I'll likely end up at 101 points.
Edit: some people on reddit mentioned that RT is worth taking with this type of build. I specced my character into it, and they're right. this is the tree that should probably be considered step 8, the reach for RT could be done whenever you feel is appropriate -- I had no problem reaching maps without it, but taking it improved my clear speed noticeably.
Notable Drops and Gear Setup I Ended Up With While Testing This Build
Gear at Time of Writing
Last edited by exhortatory on Jul 6, 2014, 12:05:27 PM
on Jul 6, 2014, 4:28:19 AM