[3.0] SMTS: The Knife Launcher: Tri-Totem Ethereal Knives [Atziri] [Uber Lab]

I’m back with more Soul Mantle shenanigans. This time I"m doing Soul Mantle Self-Flagellation totems in what I think is the strongest iteration of this build theme yet. How strong is it? How about 9-Link main skill strong? It’s a spell build so strong it doesn’t even need a wand.

High Concept

Having already done a fire-based Soul Mantle build using the Soul Mantle Totem System (SMTS as my mapping group named it), I was a little hesitant to go back down the fire path. But I started playing with options involving damage conversion from Physical damage to Fire damage. What I’ve come up with beats the Flee the Fire build I made a few months ago hands down in terms of damage.

The heart of this build comes from the Ring of Blades Unique Jewel. That’s the jewel that both adds five projectiles to our Ethereal Knives skill and it makes them be shot out in a nova pattern instead of straight ahead. And I do love me those nova-style skills.

The Chieftain "Totem Taunting" Ascendancy node helps keep enemies from targeting you. We get around 5,000 life and we make much stronger use of Mind Over Matter. Our secondary defensive mechanics are Life Regeneration, Life Leech (via Ascendancy), some energy shield, CWDT-Immortal Call, and being a totem build. We don’t have as many defensive tricks up our sleeve, but the ones we do have are stronger.

SMTS: An Overview

This basic concept behind the Soul Mantle Totem System is using Soul Mantle to deliberately curse ourselves and allows us to put an unlimited number of curses on ourselves (no duplicates). The Self-Flagellation jewel gives us increased damage for each curse on us. The Kikazaru rings give us 80% curse resistance, which makes curses pretty much irrelevant to us. Then we overcap our resistances by 17% (152% instead of 135% total) and we're all set to beef us our damage by cursing ourselves. We also get to ignore all map curse mods this way.

Pros and Cons

---Safe (Totem + Taunt Totem minimizes the amount enemies actually attack you)
---Cheap to Start (Required Unique items can be had for under 20 chaos at base levels)
---Relatively Low Budget Long-Term (5 Link, 6 Soul Mantle costs around 30 chaos)
---Large Life Pool
---Decent Life Regeneration
---Life Leech
---Party friendly
---Uber Lab Viable
---Atziri Viable

---Flicker Strikers remain the bane of totem users.
---This build runs well at low levels. There are definitely some unique items, however, that can push the cost up if you really want to push the performance of this build.
---While it isn’t required, Ethereal Knives is happiest with 20 Quality to really help that projectile speed statistic (thus upping your range).
---As with all spellcaster builds, the level of your primary spell (Ethereal Knives) makes a huge difference. Consider, if you're impatient, buying a higher level spell gem once you manage to out-level your gem. You get a very nice DPS boost at each gem level between 17 and 20.

Skill Tree and Bandits

Level 95 Skill Tree on the official forums.

For Bandits, get all the passives. Oak isn't a bad choice either, honestly. I like getting the passives because I feel like the 1% Regen is worth one point and the other two parts of Oak's rewards are worth a second, so I prefer the flexibility.

Class Ascendancy

For your Ascendancy, you should be taking Chieftain. That means you are starting life as a Marauder.
One look at the Chieftain Ascendancy and it's obvious that this is the correct path for us. Virtually everything there helps us. We have all sorts of fire totem bonuses, life regeneration, and even leech and from our totems. This is the perfect Ascendancy for us.

Recommended Order of Ascendancy Points

Normal Lab: Ngamahu, Flames Advance. This is a pathing node, but the extra chance to ignite and burn damage is useful.
Cruel Lab: Hinekora, Death's Fury. Totems can leech for you and fire penetration? Sign me up!
Merciless Lab: Aromongul, Moon's Presence. Extra damage to enemies and reduced damage done by enemies.
Uber Lab: Tukohama, War's Herald. Reflect immune totems + Taunt. Sounds good!

Suggested Leveling Trees and Leveling Notes

Level as a Flameblast or Flame Totem character until you get the required gear. Once you can use all the required gear (Soul Mantle, Ring of Blades, Self-Flagellation, Roth’s Reach, Blackgleam/Signal Fire), swap over by taking Avatar of Fire and Ancestral Bond.


I'm going to introduce you to the unique items you need for this build first. Most of them are quite cheap for the basis versions, so getting started shouldn't be a problem. Then I'll mention the stuff you'll want on your rare items.

Unique Items

Weapon: Roth’s Reach Recurve Bow
Using Roth’s Reach with Ethereal Knives isn’t that new of a concept. But we’re using it in our totem build for the reasons it has been used by others. Free +1 Chain. It’s the best bow we can pair with the Signal Fire for full Fire conversion. For extra fun, get a bunch of these cheaply and corrupt them until you get Culling Strike. Now you’re getting two free links off your bow.

Quiver: Blackgleam Fire Arrow Quiver
Quiver: The Signal Fire Fire Arrow Quiver
You can start out with the Blackgleam Fire Arrow Quiver. It does the job of doing 50% fire conversion for you. When you can afford The Signal Fire, however, you should do so (or if you manage to snag the prophecy for changing a Blackgleam to The Signal Fire). The Signal Fire gives us 25%-35% of our physical damage as extra fire damage, which is quite a good chunk of damage.

Chest: Soul Mantle Spidersilk Robe
This is an Energy Shield-based chest armour, which is unfortunate, but it provides us with two key things for this build. It provides us a third totem and it lets us curse ourselves (via dying or expiring totems). It also supports all gems in it with a level 20 Spell Totem. This is where Ethereal Knives will be socketed Pick one up today for dirt cheap (1 Chaos or less). Then socket and link it (4 Link suggested) yourself.

Ring Slot #1 and Ring Slot #2: Kikazaru Topaz Ring
This is where you will start to see the synergy of the build come together. The Kikazaru Topaz Ring is a Unique Ring which grants us all sorts of useful bonuses for our build. It gives us mana regeneration (very useful), decent flat life regeneration, Lightning Resistance, and 10-15 to all attributes. Those are all excellent and useful things to us. However, the main draw of the ring is that it provides 40% Reduced Impact of Curses on us. You're going to be cursing yourself a lot thanks to the Soul Mantle. Reducing that impact is huge and wearing a pair of these allows us to remain Resistance Capped. They are also ridiculously cheap. Pay more than a Chaos and you're paying too much.

With the buff to 40% per ring, you can get 80% resistance to curses wearing two of these. This makes pretty much every single curse laughable. You can consider curses on maps to be free mods.

Self-Flagellation Viridian Jewel
And here is where the synergy takes hold. 10-20% Increased Damage for every curse that you have means that all the curses you're putting on yourself with Soul Mantle are boosting your DPS. This jewel will take care of a lot of our DPS needs. And, like everything else, it is quite cheap. A chaos or so should get you a good one.

Clear Mind Cobalt Jewel
We want to keep as much mana as possible available to us. So we don’t use any auras in this build. Clear Mind gives us DPS and mana regeneration for not using auras. A well-rolled one will set you back a few chaos, but you can buy one for as little as one Alchemy Orb as a starter.

Ring of Blades Viridian Jewel
This jewel boosts our physical damage (which is converted later to fire) and it gives us our five additional projectiles. It also turns Ethereal Knives into a nova attack. This is a cheap jewel that is easy to find.

Ngamahu Tiki Coral Amulet
This is an option amulet if you have the resistances covered elsewhere. This is pure damage. Up to 70% increased damage is an amulet you should consider. It's certainly an end game option though. Costs around 10 chaos for a poorly rolled corrupted version and the price goes up from there. You can also buy the prophecy yourself and make it that way.

Rare Item Guide

Impacted Slots: Helmet, Belt, Amulet, and Boots

Get rare items for these slots. Pack on as much Life and Resistance (including Chaos if possible) as you humanly can into these items. You are really going to need your Resistances pumped up on these. Your boots should have 25% Movement Speed or better. While you're going to be reducing the impact of Temporal Chains by 80%, if you don't have movement speed life is going to be pretty terrible.

You should be focusing on either Armour or Hybrid Armour/Energy Shield gear. We go nowhere near Evasion nodes but do pick up some incidental Armour boosters. Energy Shield, of course, adds to our effective hit point pool and makes coloring the sockets (a lot of blue gems are needed) much easier.
A Goldrim Leather Cap can be a good "Resistance Fixer" in the short term, but long term you will want to replace that with a better helmet.

You will also want some Dexterity on your gear. We do need Dexterity for our gems, so be ready to either craft some or make sure to buy some with a good bit of Dexterity on it.


I run three life flasks, a Lavianga's Spirit, and a Quicksilver flask. You will want a Staunching Flask. I have linked my flasks in my gear section.

A Word on Cost

This build doesn't cost much to start up. All our required uniques are cheap except Signal Fire, and you can substitute in Blackgleam for quite awhile.

You can ignore the linking on your bow and just link your Soul Mantle. That'll take some fusings and jewelers. Go for 6 sockets with your jewelers (make sure to Quality with Whetstones and Armourer's Scraps first!) then go for at least a 5 link. You have twice as many possibilities for a 5 link with a 6 socket, which is why you go for that first. Depending on your luck, this can be very expensive or very cheap. If you want to buy the 6 socket and focus on fusings, you can do that too, though it’ll cost you a little chaos.

I've found that Lavianga's Spirit is an excellent unique flask if you want fast and easy mana regeneration. This flask makes running no regeneration maps much easier, if you can get your hands on it. It can be a little pricey but it does open up another map mod for you. If you don't want to buy one of these, that's fine. Just run a Hybrid flask instead.

All in all, you can run this build pretty cheaply. But, like most builds, to really make it shine, you'll want to invest a bit of currency in it. Then the build does the job of clearing maps and getting you currency itself.

Skill Links

I used to recommend FlameBlast for boss killing, but it isn't necessary on a regular basis due to the Ethereal Knives inherently high DPS. Thus, I have removed it from this guide and will only focus on Ethereal Knives.

Main Skill: Ethereal Knives

Your main skill is Ethereal Knives. It should be linked as follows:

4L: Ethereal Knives – Faster Casting – Controlled Destruction – Fire Penetration – (Soul Mantle Spell Totem)
5L: Ethereal Knives – Faster Casting – Controlled Destruction – Fire Penetration – Elemental Focus (Soul Mantle Spell Totem)
6L: Ethereal Knives – Faster Casting – Controlled Destruction – Fire Penetration – Elemental Focus – Added Fire Damage (Soul Mantle Spell Totem)

Skill Gem Decision Logic

Ethereal Knives: We don’t care about igniting enemies. We just slaughter them with lots of high DPS projectiles. The links are all about damage. We have five gems socketed that increase our DPS. Spell Totem is provided by Soul Mantle. +1 Chain is provided by Roth’s Reach, increasing our pack clearing speed. If you corrupt your Roth’s Reach for Culling Strike, you’re killing things at 10% life or less instantly.

Other Gems to Consider

Iron Will: This build gets upwards of 300 strength. This gem is surprisingly strong as a result and can really help push your DPS upwards. Usable on Ethereal Knives and Flameblast.

Utility Skill Links

3L: Cast When Damage Taken - Immortal Call - Summon Chaos Golem

This gives us some instant defense if we get hit with something hard (and serves as a warning bell). I found my golem dies a lot without a lot of minion supports, which is something we just don't do. Letting it be summoned when we take damage is one less thing you have to worry about and it's a tiny tradeoff in golem-boosted DPS. Totally a Quality of Life investment that I make every time.

Flame Dash: We're a fire build. This is a fire movement skill. It fits well. Use Lightning Warp if you hate this skill. Or Blink Arrow.

Decoy Totem: Keep enemies in a specific spot. Excellent in certain scenarios, plus it is a red gem, so it's easy for us to slot. Not useful once you get totems that taunt though.

Rallying Cry: Used to make Mind Over Matter more easily sustainable. Downside: it overrides your taunting totems. I used it for about 80 levels and found it more hassle than it's worth. Hook yourself up with a couple of Spirited Response jewels if you go with this gem though.

Portal: I hate hauling portal scrolls. Totally optional.

Map Mods

You can do pretty much all map mods, though there are considerations to be made for No Life and Mana Regeneration maps.

For maps with no Life or Mana Regeneration, you'll want a solid Mana/Hybrid flask setup. I've actually picked up a Lavianga's Spirit Sanctified Mana Flask and use it in place of a Hybrid flask. I even use it when doing regular mapping. It costs basically nothing (as of Legacy league), so it's cheap enough to try out. You burn through your mana, then you pop this flask and spam totems to kill enemies while your mana recharges. You gather your flask charges back this way. Plus you get four uses out of this flask before it runs dry. It's league specific, so not every league will have one readily available to you though.

X Additional Projectiles + Chain: This is a dangerous combination for you, just because enemies will chain their attacks off your totems and onto you. Neither of these mods is anything special on its own, but together it's a bad combination. I suggest avoiding it.

However, with the new Pantheon system, we have a god power that will grant us the ability to avoid damage from chained projectiles (Soul of Lunaris). Not a terrible plan.

Maps with any type of curse on them, however, are wonderful and should be viewed as free IIR, IIQ, or pack size on your maps.

DPS - How We Do Damage

When running at full strength, you can get around 100,000 DPS per totem, for a total of 300,00 DPS. Your tooltip won't reflect this though. Here is what the tooltip won't account for:

Fire Penetration Gem
Scorching Ray
Elemental Weakness
Self-Flagellation Bonus Damage

For running around the map, you pretty much run around, drop totems, and let them clear the map. You don't need to do any extra work.

For bosses, you'll drop your totems, curse them with Flammability, and start blasting them with Scorching Ray to shred their resistances even further.

Defensive Mechanics

The primary defensive mechanics of this build are:
1) High Life Pool
2) Good Life Regeneration
3) Life Leech
4) Being a Totem build
5) Totems Taunt + Damage Reduction
6) Mind Over Matter
7) Actual Chaos Resistance (Optional)

We take armour and hybrid armour/energy shield gear to have enough armour to survive pack ranged attacks (anything that shows up in Act 4 with high physical damage, for example). We do a small amount of armour scaling in the tree, but nothing to consider it a true focus of the build.

Our high life pool and life regeneration gives us a very nice buffer and most degeneration effects have little to no effect on us. Reaching 5,000 life in the early 90's is very possible. Life leech from our totems helps the cause out as well. Being a totem build, we stand a bit back from enemies, so melee foes are less of a threat and ranged foes hopefully die to our totems quickly.

Our totems from our Ascendancy help us out by both reducing the amount of damage enemies do to us and they taunt enemies to attack them.

Mind Over Matter is a node we take late, once we have some mana regeneration and over 1,500 mana. This provides a great buffer against hits. The nodes behind it will push you past 2,000 mana.

Mechanics and Math

There is a lot going on behind the scenes in this build, so I'm going to break it down a little bit.

How You Do Damage

Ethereal Knives

A lot of our DPS comes from the Self-Flagellation jewel by cursing ourselves constantly. However, your DPS does just fine without the curses up. It just gets significantly better with a few curses active on you. So you should be striving to have at least 4-6 curses on you at all times. This may mean spamming extra totems. This is why we don't take a lot of totem life in the tree. We don't care if our totems die because we don't usually need them to last the full 12 seconds. Their deaths only make us stronger.

The rest of the damage is scaling fire, physical, and totem damage in the tree. Our gems are pure damage with lots of MORE modifiers. We don't care about ignite and ignore it.

Resistance Requirement: How to Survive the Curses

One of the biggest concerns that letting yourself be cursed so much is really the drop in your elemental resistances. These are level 20 curses. That means you're cursing yourself with Level 20 Elemental Weakness (39% of Resistances gone) and Level 20 Frostbite, Flammability, and Conductivity (44% of their respective elemental resistance gone). Without mitigation, you could be looking at 83% of your Elemental Resistances being cut away, which is a rather difficult number to overcome.

The Kikazaru Topaz Ring, however, drops the curse impact by 40%. Two of them drop it by 80%. That means Elemental Weakness now hits you for -7.8% and the other three hit you for -8.8%. Because of PoE's rounding system, that comes out to -7% and -8%, for a more reasonable -15% to each resist. That is a number you can make up with a focus on resistances on your gear.

This makes your Merciless Resistance Goal 150% instead of the standard 135% total resistances. The planned tree, you will notice, puts you very close to two sets of resistance wheels: The Scion southern start (Sentinel for 10% all and individual 18% nodes) and the Diamond Skin wheel (15% all and 12% individual). These should be used as crutches until your gear catches up. As you improve your gear, you can spec out of these wheels and invest in other nodes. You get 20 free respec points throughout the story and Orbs of Regret aren't too hard to get a hold of. Use them, don't hoard them.

This also makes the impact of other curses extremely light. Light enough that we just don’t care. Seriously, we barely feel the impact of being cursed with anything. Except when we get with Silence. That pretty much locks us up, but Silence is not very common in the game, so we don't bother to plan for it.

My Gear

Weapons, Armour, Jewelry and Flasks



Core Malachai: A quick 2 minute Core Malachai kill. All the microtransactions on. I was actually a bit sloppy in this run. Could definitely have killed him faster. Watch the video in non-full screen. For some reason, YouTube is having problems with it in full screen.


Chill and Breathe: My Arctic Breath version that I based this off. Made this a couple leagues ago and it holds up quite well. If you're a solo player and prefer cold spells, check this one out.

Flee the Fire: This is the Fireball version of this build I did a couple leagues ago. Worked better than Chill and Breathe, plus it used Chance to Flee and was my first trip into using offslot weapons.


I originally got the idea for making an Arctic Breath totem build from r4wb1rd. That ultimately led to me to making this Fireball build based on my positive experiences with that process. His guide is here. My build uses many of the same ideas but uses self-cursing for damage and life regeneration as core components of the build.

Changelog - Last Updated 08/14/2017

04/02/2017 - Created Guide. Will likely make minor tweaks during the day today.
04/03/2017 - Updated my gear. Fixed some links. Cleared up a bit of text.
06/08/2017 - Been awhile. Uploaded a video.
08/14/2017 - Significant 3.0 updates completed.
08/15/2017 - Minor Updates

My Builds:

https://www.pathofexile.com/forum/view-thread/1739942 - Flee the Fire! Fireball / Flameblast Sire of Shards Chieftain
https://www.pathofexile.com/forum/view-thread/1572176 - Chill and Breathe: An Arctic Breath Totem Build
Last edited by Eustacio on Aug 18, 2017, 2:33:39 PM
Last bumped on Feb 4, 2018, 12:26:12 AM
My Builds:

https://www.pathofexile.com/forum/view-thread/1739942 - Flee the Fire! Fireball / Flameblast Sire of Shards Chieftain
https://www.pathofexile.com/forum/view-thread/1572176 - Chill and Breathe: An Arctic Breath Totem Build
My Builds:

https://www.pathofexile.com/forum/view-thread/1739942 - Flee the Fire! Fireball / Flameblast Sire of Shards Chieftain
https://www.pathofexile.com/forum/view-thread/1572176 - Chill and Breathe: An Arctic Breath Totem Build
I had a question about the ring of blades jewel- are you using it as a nova attack as well? I don't see where on the tree you can place the medium radius jewel and still grab the 40 dex required to trigger the nova effect.
Yep, using it as a nova. Works in the Scion section above Sentinel (Path of the Hunter for 20 Dex and 3 other +10 Dex nodes are within it). Remember you don't have to actually take the dexterity nodes; they just have to be within the radius now.
My Builds:

https://www.pathofexile.com/forum/view-thread/1739942 - Flee the Fire! Fireball / Flameblast Sire of Shards Chieftain
https://www.pathofexile.com/forum/view-thread/1572176 - Chill and Breathe: An Arctic Breath Totem Build
Last edited by Eustacio on May 26, 2017, 10:17:54 PM
Awesome! I wasn't aware of that. Thanks
any videos? i've got a bunch of the uniques mentioned and I'd like to try it out
Just posted a Core Malachai kill to show how it works. Haven't posted any mapping videos though. Usually don't record the whole map, just the boss kills.
My Builds:

https://www.pathofexile.com/forum/view-thread/1739942 - Flee the Fire! Fireball / Flameblast Sire of Shards Chieftain
https://www.pathofexile.com/forum/view-thread/1572176 - Chill and Breathe: An Arctic Breath Totem Build
maybe I miss something, but why did you put passive points into whispers of doom if we are not using any curses or maybe only flamability?
Elemental Weakness on gloves + Flammability
My Builds:

https://www.pathofexile.com/forum/view-thread/1739942 - Flee the Fire! Fireball / Flameblast Sire of Shards Chieftain
https://www.pathofexile.com/forum/view-thread/1572176 - Chill and Breathe: An Arctic Breath Totem Build
Last edited by Eustacio on Jun 19, 2017, 9:57:16 PM

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