[3.1 HC] Apep's Darkpact Quad-Totem Hiero (Shaper/Uber Atziri viable, Guardians farmable)

What is the build? (TLDR)

Hierophant with ritual of Awakening summons either 4 darkpact totems or 3 and a decoy.

Pure chaos damage scaled by dual wielding Apep's Rage wands in a tabula linking Darkpact>Spell totem>Added chaos>void manipulation>controlled destruction>faster casting.

Maintains 3 frenzy charges via frenzy>gmp>faster attacks. (variant drops these in favor of extra damage through wither>cast while channelling>summon skeletons>inc dur. or separate set-ups using Summon Skellies, wither, and despair. See FAQ 21)
Maintains Arcane surge at lvl 8 via Flame Dash>Arcane Surge>Faster Casting>Inc Duration.
Defends Via MOM+Divine Guidance (and sanctuary of thought post-uber lab).
Uses Vaal Summon skeletons for periodic higher burst damage.

Can use Wither>CWC>Summon Skellies>Minion life for good single target. [Edit] Alternately Wither, Despair and Summon Skellies/Faster casting/spell echo/minion life can be separated out for a more mobile but more complex variation. (See FAQ 21)

Video Samples

At level 76 against a moderately rolled T10 terrace (including brief tour of current gear, gems, and skill tree) https://youtu.be/aifBb9WvIQ0

At level 90 against a T12 Shaped Mudgeyser with Breach, Beyond, Ele Weakness +107% fire damage, and 2 Bosses. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3FmG0yGtJ8&t=4s

At level 93 (full build) walking over Atziri

At level 65 using Wither>CWC>Summon Skellies walking over A10 Kitava

Why this build?
Because you love the Dark Pact concept and want to try it without either using the somewhat cumbersome self cast skeleton summoning version, or needing 4% life leech+vaal pact for the self cast version. Because you want to go forth and watch your totem army crush content while enjoying over 10k effective hp at level 76 in a tabula!!

What has the build accomplished so far?
Smooth leveling Acts 1-10 including all bosses without difficulty. Atziri down at lvl 72 and farmable, Uber Izaro down at lvl 75 and farmable, runs over maps up to T11 so far. Only level 76 at the moment. I would usually wait longer to post a build, but this build might be most fun I have had in this game since I started playing in invasion and I wanted to share it.


As of hitting level 88, the build has run over some T15 content and successfully beaten a modestly rolled Guardian of the Chimera.


As of level 91, the build has successfully defeated all four guardians in hc harbinger.


Post hc death at lvl 93, succeeded for the first time at uber-Atziri in standard


See page 27 for new variant that take on Shaper in HC and can farm Shaper in SC!

Defensive and Offensive Stats at level 76 and level 93:

Life: 5190 Regen 250/sec with golem 155/sec without
Mana: 3311 Regen 259/sec with arcane surge active 185/sec without
ES: 1706
Ele resses: Capped, but not yet overcapped
Chaos res: 31% (personal taste and available gear, probably not really necessary)
Armor and evasion both negligible

Lvl 93 key Defense stats:
Life: 6132 Regen 503/sec with golem 398/sec without
Mana: 3948 Regen 369/sec with arcane surge active 263/sec without
ES: 2139

Offense--First a caveat. The tool tip numbers for Darkpact are highly misleading for a few reasons:
1. They do not appear to take into account the totem cast speed nodes at all
2. They do not take into account the 6% of totem life added to damage (Totem appears to act as "you" for all Dark Pact purposes)
3. They do not take into account the more multiplier inherent to Darkpact for non-skelly casting (This multiplier is 90% for a lvl 19 gem.

For all of these reasons, the best way for you to gauge the build's offense is go take a look at the short video posted above. But, for the sake of rough comparison only, the current tooltip shows as follows:

Resting in town, no totems summoned: 16k/totem/sec
4 totems summoned, no surge or frenzy: 12k/totem/sec
4 totems with surge (typical minimum): 14.5k/totem/sec
4 totems with surge and 3 frenzy (typical boss fight): 17.2k/totem/sec
4 totems with above+ 15-25 stacks of Pursuit of faith (typical map clear): Roughly 20k/totem/sec

Remember these figures don't include damage added from the totem life cost, some of the totem cast speed, or the Dark Pact More multiplier. My guess is that the actual damage output is in the neighborhood of a bit more than double the tooltip, though this could be way off. It also benefits from being 100% chaos damage, with fewer resistant enemies and ability to ignore enemy ES. Again, a quick look at the video will be a more accurate representation of offense than the numbers.

Lvl 93 resting in town no totems tooltip (for reference): 30k/totem/sec

How does it work?
The build centers around a few key concepts:

1. Damage effectiveness: Dark Pact has added damage effectiveness of 100%. I imagine this is because it adds 100% of the life sacrificed to cast it, so it is set to simply include 100% of all added damage. But its cast speed can become quite decent, especially when dual wielding Apep's rage (which have 25-30% inc cast speed each). So added flat damage can give Dark Pact a disproportionate boost.

2. Frenzy Charges: The Frenzy skill gem reads melee or bow. But it actually means melee, bow or wand. Because we are going to dual wield Apep's rage for the BIS cast speed and added chaos damage to spells, we can also maintain 3 frenzy charges both during map clear and during boss fights. This results in about 26% more damage. give or take. {edit--Frenzies were my initial variation, later testing suggests dropping these in favor of Wither/Despair/Summon skellies. See FAQ 21 and page 39 for more detailed discussion.}

3. Arcane surge: Because each Apep's rage increases the mana cost of all skills by 40%, we end up (once fully ascended) with a flame dash that costs 41 mana. This will proc a level 8 arcane surge with every cast. This is another approximately 17% more multiplier that stays up for 6.4 seconds at a time. (Essentially 100% uptime)

4. Hierophant MOM: The divine guidance ascendancy grants a bunch of extra mana and adds another 10% to the damage taken that goes to mana before life, resulting in a 60/40 split of damage health/mana with the MOM keystone. This means that your unreserved mana, up to 2/3 of your life total, will act as effective HP. If you maintain roughly this ratio, it is particularly amazing for running lab, since the lab DOES NOT COUNT MANA in scaling trap damage. This is essentially an automatic mitigation of close to 40% of the trap damage you are used to taking (since lab will still count ES). Because this build uses no auras, it gets 100% of its considerable mana pool as extra life.

Essential Uniques:
Tabula Can obviously be replaced by any 6-link BBBBRG.
I _strongly_ recommend playing this build with a 6 link, as every gem synergizes well and there are no wasted sockets. I also strongly recommend dual wielding the wands rather than using a shield. The dps drop from trading out one wand is dramatic.


I left Clear Mind out of the guide originally. I was reminded of this wonderful unique jewel by one of the folks who commented below. This was a face-palm moment for me. This unique obviously belongs in the build, because we reserve no mana. It increases our offensive strength considerably and adds a bit of mana regen. I strongly recommend buying and slotting one of these at the earliest opportunity after hitting 28 (since before then you may want to use heralds for early leveling).

Gear at lvl 76 and 93:

Lvl 76

Lvl 93:

Gem links:

Original gem links are below for reference, but the build has evolved significantly since they were first posted. I am now listing first the set-up that I currently favor in 3.1. As always, ymmv:

6 Link: Darkpact>Spell totem>Added Chaos>Cont Destruction>Void Manipulation>Concentrated Effect
4 Link: Flame Dash>Faster Casting>Arcane Surge>Inc duration
4 Link: Summon Skeletons>Faster Casting>Spell Echo>Minion Life
4 Socket/3Link: CWDT (fully leveled)>Stone Golem>Molten Shell & Decoy totem
3 Link: Despair>Wither>Faster Casting*
3 Link: CWDT (lvl 1)>Immortal Call (lvl 3)>Inc duration*

*If you do not care about immortal call and prefer a slight increase in potential damage at the high end use these 3 links instead:

3 Link: Despair>Faster Casting>Inc Aoe
3 Link: Wither>Faster Casting>Inc Duration

*For a less complex, slightly less mobile, but still highly effective set up:
1. Change the Summon skellies 4 link to Wither>CWC>Summon Skeletons>Minion life
2. Replace wither with inc aoe in the Despair 3L.

6 Link: Darkpact>Spell totem>Added Chaos>Cont Destruction>Void Manipulation>Faster Casting*
4 Link: Flame Dash>Faster Casting>Arcane Surge>Inc duration
4 Link: Decoy Totem>Min&Tot ele res>Inc AOE>Inc Duration
4 Link: CWDT>Immortal Call>Inc Duration>Enfeeble
3 Link: Frenzy>Faster Attacks>GMP
3 Link: Summon Stone Golem>Minion Life>Vaal Summon Skeletons

Original notes on the original gem links
1. I originally used CWDT lvl 2, Imm call lvl 4, Enfeeble lvl 6. Once i was up over 10-11k EHP, I decided to level up CWDT and enfeeble all the way.
2. Arcane surge should be exactly level 8 once you are fully ascended. It can be lvl 11 until you take the Sanctuary of Thought ascendancy (because that ascnedancy reduces the mana cost of your skills, and you really want to proc arcance surge with every flame dash.)
3. In the 6L, faster casting can be subbed out for conc effect, yielding about 20% greater damage at the cost of some aoe. I found that I preferred faster casting here through most of the game, but conc has become my general set-up past T-13 or so. I would definitely swap in conc for non-mobile bosses, even if using faster casting.
4. The decoy totem links may look excessive, but the 3 dark pact totem+1 decoy totem set up is excellent for any difficult fight, and you want to make the decoy totem as tanky and effective as possible without investing skill points into it. With inc AOE, it appears that the totem's taunt can reach off-screen, which can be very useful in certain situations.
{Edit--if using the wither setup, just drop min/to ele res and move decoy to a 3 link}
4. If you are not aware of the comparatively low cost technique for getting 3 off colors for your Apep's (since one of the 3 Links is GGG) here's the quick tutorial:

A. Craft 2 green through Vorici (25 chrom)
B. Make the item a 2 socket at a cost of 1 jew
C. Make the item a 3 socket at a cost of 3 jews if third socket is green, gratz, if not
D. Make the item a 2 socket at a cost of 1 jew, it will maintain the 2 green you already crafted
E. Go back to step C and repeat until you have 3 Green, then link them.

On average this method is much less expensive than paying 125 chroms for GGG, and doesn't require a higher level vorici. For slightly more expense, you can get four off-colors on any piece of gear relatively inexpensively by adding a new step C-E between 3 sockets and 4 sockets instead of 2 and 3.

Link to skill Tree at lvl 76

Leveling tips:

1-27: Pick your favorite aoe skill--anything will do. I happen to like lightning tendrils+orb of storms as a combo. For the bandit quest I killed all for the skill points.

28-61: Pick up darkpact and a tabula. Find two wands with the best flat added damage to spells and cast speed you can for your level. If they are available, grab a pair of Hrimsorrow gloves for the flat damage to spells. If they are available, grab a berek's pass or berek's grip for the same reason. (I had no gloves or rings while leveling and it was not a problem at all)
Until level 62, your gem set up will be DP>Spell totem>Added lightning>Added Chaos (added cold until 31)>Controlled Destruction>Faster Casting. You can ascend right around lvl 31 and 55. First two ascendancies are Pursuit of Faith and Ritual of Awakening. You may find self cast summon skeletons very helpful during this phase, both for increasing the base totem damage significantly and pinpointing the totems' castings.

62+: Ditch all of the elemental gear, equip your Apep's, destroy the world. Literally as soon as you hit 62 and equip the weapons, you can do your merc ascendancy and take Divine guidance, which will boost your tankiness significantly for A9 and A10.

Skill tree guideposts, in order:

Step 1: Begin with sanctity, retribution, MOM and the nodes behind it.
Step 2: Grab light of divinity, Purity of Flesh, and head to Ancestral bond. You should reach Ancestral bond right around level 28, and should not take it before then.
Step 3: Grab amplify and then take all of the Witch area nodes.
Step 4: Grab Quick recovery, then straight down to totemic mastery
Step 5: Grab totemic zeal and sentinel
Step 6: Take the remaining life, mana, and jewel sockets
Step 7: Finish the life wheel, Then take remaining life, mana and damage nodes to taste, trying to keep mana at roughly 2/3 of life as you go.

Concluding Thoughts

I plan to post the build's progress periodically, for as long as it survives, as I continue to test it in the harbinger hc environment. I hope some of you have a chance to test it out and let me know what you think.


P.S. FAQ (Because this guide has generated more interest than I ever imagined it would and there have been many similar questions asked repeatedly):

0. I keep dying, what's wrong with my gear?
You don't have enough added flat life and flat mana. A good rule of thumb for the version without uniques is to shoot for +600-800 total flat life on gear (including bonuses from 1/2 strength) and +300-400 total flat mana on gear (including bonuses from 1/2 int). Call it a goal of +500-600 life and +200-300 Mana for the version running Devoto's and Dream Fragments. This is more achievable than you think--start shopping!

1. Wither totem?

A wither totem would definitely add to dps, but the decoy totem is safer for high level content, particularly in hc where the build was conceived. See FAQ 21 below.

2. Soul Mantle?

Soul Mantle can be very fun with this build in sc, with or without kikazaru, as it trades a significant amount of tankiness for significantly increased damage. Soul Mantle can be fun for a little while with this build in hc, with or without kikazaru, as it trades a significant amount of tankiness for significantly increased damage.

3. Uber Lab farmer? Guardian farmer? Shaper viable? Uber Atziri Viable?

All of the above. Build, well piloted, has been confirmed to be able to handle all content in the game. (Except CI enemies in Hall of Grandmasters) Shaper & Uber Atziri remain properly challenging in hc if you are not already very comfortable with those fights. Guardians will also kill you if you fail to play well against them.

4. Change things for sc?

See the variation discussed in my post on page 27. I am working on this version for hc, but I would run it in SC for sure.

5. Pantheon Choices?

For early game I prefer Brine king and Ryslatha. For endgame content, after obtaining at least one, and possibly two forbidden taste flasks, I prefer Solaris and Garukhan. These are a matter of taste.

6. Do I really need 4 totems?

For endgame content, being able to re-summon your decoy totem every time it is off cooldown while still maintaining decent dps requires 4 totems. I feel it's well worth it. ymmv.

7. The tooltip says . . .

Tooltip is highly misleading for totem builds. POB is better, though imperfect. Trust your perceptions of the fight most.

8. Wouldn't self cast wither/blight add more dps than frenzy?

Yes. But at a cost to safety that it is greater than you would think. Frenzy can be maintained during moments when you are not in danger. Both wither and blight, when self cast, require you to hold still at least briefly. That briefly can periodically get you killed by the high level content. Hence my original preference for frenzy charges. --edit-- HOWEVER, see FAQ 21 below.

9. Flame dash is the most limited movement skill. Do I have to use flame dash?

Eat your vegetables--practice with it until you are comfortable. Flame dash>inc duration>faster casting>arcane surge is necessary to keep close to 100% uptime on arcane surge, which provides both approximately 17% more dps and around 100 mana regen/sec at higher levels for defense. Build will feel better with surge running.

9a. But lightning warp can proc arcane surge, can't it?

Yes, but. To make LW effective, it needs to be linked to less duration, which when linked to Arcane surge renders it mostly useless. Learn to love flame dash.

10. Can I use a shield?

Not really. The apeps synergize well with each other. Dropping one results in a dramatic dps loss. We can be tanky enough without a shield.

11. Can I use a 5L chest?

Originally I felt not really. You can get 10k+ EHP using a tabula, so you really don't need any other chest until you are ready for endgame content (and maybe not even then). The dps drop-off between 6L and 5L is not quite as bad as switching to a shield, but it is still dramatic.
HOWEVER, if you are using the Wither>CWC>summon skellies set up, you will be rolling over most content even in a 5L, so this becomes a matter of taste and budget.

12. I have infinite currency, what's the best 6L chest for this build?

Best offense without too much of a defensive loss is going to be a 6L Convenant. Best Defense is going to be a well Rolled 6L Carnal armor with top flat&hybrid life, flat mana, int, and str. Honorable mentions to Carcass Jack, Cherrubim's maleficence, +2 skin of the loyal. EDIT--There is a defensive level beyond this that I only began to test (cut short by interference from my 4 year old at a key moment resulting in the untimely death of that character) involving a cloak of defiance and a healthy mind jewel slotted in the socket above Witch. Tree would look a bit different, but the preliminary results were very promising.
Close to 7.5k ehp by level 65

13. Is there a high level tree?

14. Why don't we path to _________?

Test for yourself, but usually the answer is that it did not appear to be efficient, based on the benefit to the build for the number of nodes traveled.

15. What should I prioritize for jewels?

1. Clear Mind
2. 1 slot on one jewel needs at least 9 totem ele res to cap them for upper tier content
3. Use jewel slots to make sure ele resses are overcapped for red maps (109% total) and to get chaos res to positive 20% or so for the use of forbidden taste flask.
4. Split the remaining jewel slots between inc life/inc mana (maintaining a roughly 3/2 ratio of life to mana) and damage mods or cast speed mods of the following types:
totem damage
area damage
spell damage
spell damage while dual wielding
chaos damage
Cast speed
Attack and cast speed
Cast speed while dual wielding
Totem life (scales damage slightly and makes more durable totems)

16. Can I do this as CI or lowlife?

You can try anything, but it would be a very different build. You would lose much of the benefit of Hierophant MOM tankiness and flask use by taking the build in that direction.

17. What boot enchant do I want?

Life & Mana regen or extra movement speed are my favorites.

18. How can I improve my gear?

After overcapping rezzes to 109% and getting chaos res up to 20% or so, increase your flat life, mana, str, and int. That's it. The tankiness of the build is in its EHP, not its armor or EV.

19. What's the best ratio of Life:Mana?

3:2 once you have the first defensive ascendancy. 1:1 if trying cloak of defiance/healthy mind.

20. Is totem life important? (are totem resistances important?)

Life, not tremendously. It will scale damage slightly and it will make the totems slightly tankier, but the playstyle has us constantly recasting totems anyway. Resistances--for endgame. I do recommend capping totem resistance once we get to upper end content, as this will allow the totems to live long enough to get the needed few shots in as you continuously recast them. Totems start with a base elemental resistance of 40%. add 26% from the tree and another 9% on the jewel of your choice.

21. How do I get more single target dps?

There are some things I only learn about a build after starting over more than once. I'm posting now about skeletons---I had underestimated them severely. (Many of you may have already realized this, but I feel obligated to make a clear post on it).

You see, when I first made the guide, I thought that darkpact was counting the totem as "you" for all purposes. But it apparently only counts as "you" for the base cost in totem life and the base damage. It does not (as someone recently posted) count as "you" for the more multiplier. The implication of this is that summoned skeletons don't just boost the damage somewhat. Because DP will chain twice after the initial cast from the totem, they can nearly -triple- it. Here's the math:

For each cast by the totem alone, you will have (base DP damage+added damage+6% of totem life (2921 at lvl 20))*increases*mores. For each cast of a totem while there are at least 2 summoned skellies on the board, you will have (base DP damage+added damage+6% of skelly life (1897 at lvl 20))*increases*mores*THREE.

Not that the build needed a ton more damage, but there are two places it becomes important: [Edited post 3.1]

1. While leveling, using self-cast summon skellies makes things zoom by even faster.
2. The original single target dps set up was wither>Cast while channelling>Summon skellies>minion life. This creates a dramatic dps boost for the top level fights, as the multiplicative bonuses from wither and summon skellies can be stacked efficiently this way.
3. Post 3.1 I experimented with Summon Skellies>Faster Casting>Spell Echo>Minion Life and a separate setup for Wither/Despair with faster casting, or even two separate three links Wither>Faster Casting>Inc Dur and Despair>Faster Casting>Inc Aoe. In this setup we use the skellies to target our darkpact, Despair for Rares/Weak bosses, and Wither only for the strongest bosses already distracted by a totem. This set-up feels more mobile and is the one I currently prefer.

22. What's different in 3.1?
Take despair as a self cast curse and use where appropriate. Emphasize jewel sockets earlier, as Abyss jewels are OP both offensively and defensively. Consider a Granite flask in place of one of the quicksilvers, as 3.1 has many more rapidly hitting phys damage mobs that armour may give a little more comfort against for some folks.

23. Can I try___________?

YES! Whatever it is, test it and find out! The guide is only ever meant to be a jumping off point. Test and find out all the things about which I don't have a clue and let us know. :>


Last edited by Orion72 on Jan 15, 2018 4:10:18 AM
Last bumped on Apr 23, 2018 5:51:07 AM
Nice idea, I like it. Do you have a Path of Building link? How much is your DPS right now?
Completed 14 ChallengesBrutalBear wrote:
Nice idea, I like it. Do you have a Path of Building link? How much is your DPS right now?

I imported his char, here the pastebin:
This world is an illusion, exile!
Totems for life!
Dont you think about adding a Whiter totem for bosses?
This world is an illusion, exile!
Totems for life!
Re Path of Building:

Thanks for importing the char. Looks like actual dps, according to POB, is approximately:
32k/totem/sec for normal mob
27k/totem/sec for normal boss
24k/totem/sec for shaper/guardian

I expect its a little higher when mapping, as POB doesnt seem to count anything for Pursuit of Faith or arcane surge.

Re: Wither totem--I considered this, but imo Decoy>Wither for tough fights. Vaal summon skellies gives some extra damage against most bosses. In general for bosses fights, I'd rather they be slightly slower and safer (since I play in hc). That said, a build guide is always only a jumping off point--ymmv.

Last edited by Orion72 on Aug 8, 2017 9:43:25 AM
I agree with the decoy usage, he saved me a bunch when i was playing scorching ray yesterday, got killed while doing Atziri due to a fcking crash.
I cant watch the video from work, how's the Aoe and single target on the totems right now? Do you plan to add more damage or just going for life from now in the tree?
This world is an illusion, exile!
Totems for life!
Re current aoe/damage:

Aoe during map clear feels good--for regular clearing, never need more than one totem in a place, so can place 4 totems whereever needed for maximum coverage while running. Single target damage feels good up through T11s. [-edit- Clear continues to feel good all the way up through T16s at lvl 88] Atziri phases were nice and short. Fights with Uber Iz also felt fairly short. The boss at the end of the T10 Terrace video (Sallazang) goes down in approximately 20 seconds. I don't think there is anywhere on the tree where it would be efficient to try for more damage, so I will probably continue to put points into life/mana/regen.


[edit--but see post below for my musings on adding in crit, particularly in an sc environment]
Last edited by Orion72 on Aug 10, 2017 3:58:40 AM
Interesting build, never been playing with Totems, do you have some options about this build but for SC not HC ?
Re SC:

If playing SC, I would leave out the arcane and profane chemistry clusters and take the Shaman's Dominion and Arcane Potency clusters instead. I would also look for crit chance and crit multi on gear, compromising somewhat on the life and mana that I have emphasized in the HC version of the build. I would alter the frenzy links to be Frenzy>GMP>inc crit>pcoc. I might also swap out controlled destruction and faster casting for crit chance and crit multi. Some experimentation will be warranted to get the balance right. You still want to take enough life & mana to feel comfortable. In SC this is a matter of taste.

Understand that every one of those changes I propose for SC (except the gem swaps) compromises the durability of the build. In HC the value of being tankier is so much greater that I generally prefer to forego crit unless the perfect gear falls into my lap. If it does, I might experiment with adding some crit into the HC version as well.

If you decide to try out the crit version in SC, do please post and let us know how it works out.


Build is now lvl 88 and has proven ability to run guardians. I think I would keep it as is even in SC. Though I am still interested in the results if anyone tries a crit variation.
Last edited by Orion72 on Aug 10, 2017 3:59:45 AM
Wich Pantheons do you prefer?
Also if I think about crit SC totems, does Alira will be better choice?
Last edited by _REC_ on Aug 8, 2017 7:18:22 PM

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